Juneau-Douglas High School students and teachers generally are ignoring a new law requiring them to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, according to a high school student on the Juneau School Board.
The state law says school boards must require the pledge to be recited regularly. A person must recite a specified text, which includes the phrase "one nation under God," or maintain a respectful silence, the law says.
The school board must inform those affected of their right not to participate in the pledge. Nonparticipation may not be used to evaluate a student or employee, the law says.
Robbie Roberts, a JDHS senior who holds an advisory seat on the school board, said at Tuesday's board meeting that teachers and students have ignored the pledge, which is given over the intercom.
"Nobody is responding to the Pledge of Allegiance," Roberts told the board. "Class goes on. We sit down."
Teacher Clay Good said some students dislike being forced to say the pledge, but it's not an organized protest. The issue is more centered on the disruption to class and the atmosphere of being led by a crackly voice over an intercom.
The Juneau Education Association, the teachers' union, is expected to discuss the issue later this week.
"Teachers are understandably concerned about the manner in which they're asked to do the pledge and whether it's ultimately the respectful way to do it," Good said.
Teachers feel they shouldn't have their patriotism questioned if their classes pledge individually, as some do, or according to different standards, he said.
Good said he asks for students to volunteer to lead the pledge and tells them to pledge as if their grandparents are standing next to them.
Schools Superintendent Gary Bader said at Tuesday's board meeting that noncompliance with the law is "real disappointing."
Respecting the pledge is state law, if not district policy yet, and teachers should comply, Bader told the board.
School board members suggested some changes to a proposed policy on the Pledge of Allegiance at its first reading Tuesday. A vote is scheduled for Sept. 19.
The first version of the proposed policy requires the pledge daily of students, who are to stand facing the flag and hold their hands over their hearts. But it doesn't require teachers to recite the pledge.
Unlike state law, the policy requires nonparticipants to stand quietly. And it specifies nonparticipants must respect the rights of participants.
Board member Mary Becker suggested nonparticipants shouldn't have to hold their hand over their heart because it might conflict with religious beliefs.
Board member Chuck Cohen said the policy should say all students must respect the rights of students who wish to participate or not participate. Cohen said he wanted to be sure no student is ostracized because of his or her choice.
Board member Alan Schorr said he wouldn't vote for the policy. A patriotic oath is fine, he said, but the phrase "under God" turns it into a public prayer.
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