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Brookline may vote on Pledge in schools

By Brock Parker
Globe Correspondent / September 8, 2011

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Saying that the Pledge of Allegiance has no educational value, an activist group is pushing for Brookline to stop recitations of the pledge in public schools.

Members of Brookline PAX are asking the Town Meeting this fall to vote in favor of a resolution calling for the town’s School Committee to rescind its pledge policy and stop it from being recited in the schools.

Martin Rosenthal, the cochairman of Brookline PAX, said that although the recitation of the pledge is voluntary, there is subtle and sometimes overt pressure on students, especially younger children, to participate.

“It just puts kids in an uncomfortable situation,’’ Rosenthal said. “How do you say that to a 6-year-old? . . . We just don’t think it belongs in the schools.’’

The article Brookline PAX submitted for Town Meeting comes just months after the town’s School Committee approved a revised policy requiring principals to allow a weekly recitation of the pledge during morning announcements. Participation in the recitations is left up to the individuals at the schools.

The School Committee chairwoman, Rebecca Stone, said the new policy was approved in the spring after discussion began over saying the pledge at the Devotion School, where recitations were not a regular occurrence. While weekly recitations of the pledge had been held at most Brookline K-through-8 schools, the pledge also was not said regularly at the Lincoln School.

Stone said it has been a historical practice to say the pledge.

“I agree with [Rosenthal] that it’s not of great educational value,’’ she said. “We’re recognizing established and in some cases revered practices of the citizenry.’’

Misti Jaynes, who has two children in Brookline’s Devotion School, said she is glad that her children began having the opportunity to say the pledge at school in April. Jaynes and several other parents lobbied the School Committee in April for recitations, and she supports saying the pledge to show patriotism and to bring Americans together.

“If someone else doesn’t want to say it that is fine, but don’t take it away from my children,’’ Jaynes said. “Don’t take away my rights.’’

Rosenthal, who has a daughter at Brookline High School, called the pledge a loyalty oath loaded with complex issues.

“Are you supposed to just say something like this,’’ he asked, “or are you supposed to think about it?’’

Brock Parker can be reached at Brock.globe@gmail.com.