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School Committee approves Pledge proposal

Posted by Tom Coakley  August 3, 2010 09:25 PM

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By Brock Parker, Town Correspondent

After three years of fighting for the Pledge of Allegiance to be said in his school, Arlington High School Senior Sean Harrington will finally get his wish this fall.

Six weeks after deadlocking on a proposal that would have required the pledge to be lead in all Arlington schools, the School Committee unanimously approved a new pledge policy Tuesday night.

The new policy means that this fall the pledge will be said daily over the intercom at Arlington High School, where the pledge has not been said for decades.

After the vote Tuesday, an emotional Harrington said High School Principal Charles Skidmore informed him that he can lead the pledge on the first day of school in September.

 “It’s just tears of joy,” Harrington said, wiping tears from his eyes. “I’m just so overly excited.”

Some School Committee members received threats after the committee’s 3-3 vote in June failed to pass a district-wide policy on the pledge. The proposal before the committee in June would have required that the pledge be led daily over the intercom in each Arlington school.

State law requires that teachers lead their classes in the Pledge of Allegiance each day, but the Supreme Judicial Court issued an opinion in 1977 saying that it would be unconstitutional to discipline a teacher or student who chose not to say the pledge. The US Supreme Court has also said that making students recite the pledge is contrary to the First Amendment.

School Committee member Judson Pierce said the policy that was approved Tuesday was written after consulting with other school districts, attorneys and judges.

“We’ve done exhaustive research to ensure we had an adequate policy,” Pierce said.

The proposal will allow school principals to determine how the  pledge will be recited in their schools each day. While the policy will require that each student be given the opportunity to say the pledge, no students or faculty will be required to participate in a recitation.

Skidmore has said that under the new policy, the pledge will be lead over the intercom at Arlington High School each morning so it can be heard in every classroom.

Harrington said that is what he’s been seeking since he began a petition and gathered hundreds of signatures from people requesting the pledge be said in all Arlington schools.

After the outcry following the School Committee’s vote in June, Harrington said he knew the committee would have to enact a new policy on the pledge.

“I’m proud that this passed,” Harrington said. “I just thank God it passed.”

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