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Brookline group proposes subbing national anthem for Pledge of Allegiance

Posted by Brock Parker  October 11, 2011 04:31 PM

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Activists attempting to stop the recital of the Pledge of Allegiance in Brookline classrooms are now proposing that the national anthem be sung instead, or voluntary recitations of the pledge be said before school.

The petition, led by the progressive activist group Brookline Pax, is asking Town Meeting next month to pass a resolution asking the School Committee to revisit its policy on the pledge in public schools.

The resolution had asked last month that the School Committee “rescind its pledge of Allegiance policy, and stop its recital in mandatory settings.”

But Martin Rosenthal, the co-chair of Brookline Pax, said that language has now been dropped and the resolution now asks that the School Committee amend its policy to give school principals control over Pledge of Allegiance practices at their school.

It also asks the school district to recognize that recitations of the pledge should be done in large group assemblies rather than in a classroom.

Rosenthal has said the effort to revise the School Committee policy on the pledge is to avoid subtle and sometimes overt pressure on students to participate in the voluntary recitations.

“It’s the fishbowl of the classroom that bothers us for younger kids,” Rosenthal said.

Brookline’s School Committee approved a revised pledge policy in the spring 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 resolution to revise the pledge policy has met with resistance from some parents who have said they prefer to have the pledge said in the classroom. Brookline School Committee Chairwoman Rebecca Stone has said she does not believe the committee intends to revisit the policy.

Rosenthal said he’s been barraged with invective and hateful email since the original pledge resolution was announced in September. The revised resolution recommends other alternatives to saying the pledge in the classroom.

Rosenthal said students could sing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which is patriotic but is not a loyalty oath.

“I don’t find it as divisive,” Rosenthal said.

Brookline’s Town Meeting voted in 1984 against saying the pledge at the opening of its meetings, but opted to continue singing the national anthem. Rosenthal had spearheaded that proposal to stop saying the pledge at Town Meeting almost 30 years ago.

Another alternative included in the revised resolution would stage voluntary recitations of the pledge in the front lobbies of schools before school each day. That way, Rosenthal said students could opt-in to the recitations, rather than having to opt-out of a recitation in the classroom.

Brookline Pax and other resolution supporters are also asking that school staff be encouraged to incorporate discussions and lessons about the concept and history of the pledge.

Brookline’s fall Town Meeting is scheduled to begin on Nov. 15.

You can reach Brock Parker at brock.globe@gmail.com

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