…With liberty and justice for all
A school gets back into compliance with Oregon law
December 15, 2017
By James Favot and Tim Galvan
Most students know the Pledge of Allegiance and could probably say the whole thing by heart. Tigard High is required by Oregon law to allow students to say the Pledge in high schools at least once a week, but for around ten years this school has been out of compliance with the policy. The administration has recently taken notice and is working to resolve the issue.
One of Oregon’s education regulations, ORS 339.875, requires a U.S. flag to be present in every classroom. In early December, administrators counted the number of classrooms that have flags in them, but were surprised to discover that 25 classrooms and places of student assembly are currently out of compliance with the state law.
Principal Andy Van Fleet explains how the flags could have been accidentally removed from classrooms. Teachers may have forgotten to put them back into place after moving between rooms or retiring, or a custodian might have taken a flag down for cleaning and left it stored away. To rectify the situation, Associate Principal Angelita Miller ordered enough U.S. flags for every classroom to have a flag after winter break.
The state regulation also requires schools to present students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at least once a week. Van Fleet understands that the Pledge used to be recited at Tigard High during the morning announcements, but eventually just stopped. “At some point it got dropped. We thought, ‘Why aren’t we doing this anymore? We need to be doing it again,’” Van Fleet said.
The Monday morning announcements will now be giving students the opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance. You may pay your respects by standing up and putting your hand over your heart and reciting the Pledge or respectfully sitting and listening as it goes by. Any other responses, such as getting angry, talking over the announcements or looking at your phone will not be allowed and could get you in trouble.
History teacher Danny Rowe shared her opinion on why the Pledge is important in schools. “I do think that every class should have a flag. We’re setting a good example of what’s important in our nation,” Rowe said. “Lots of people have died and served under our flag for our benefit. We benefit from their sacrifice… This is the symbol that we choose in order to continue to form that more perfect union. We have to share a belief in something.”
Not everyone agrees with Rowe. Representative Barbara Smith Warner serves Northeast Portland’s District 45. She believes the law should be more of a suggestion than a requirement of saying it at all. “I agree with the premise, but I don’t agree with the execution. You can either let someone do something, or require them to do it. As far as the Pledge goes, I think they can let the classroom have the flag and say the Pledge, but they shouldn’t require them to.”
Van Fleet realizes that there might be pushback from the student body. “We realize some might not like this, but it’s a law, and we can’t do anything about it.” He wants to be sure that students are educated about their options surrounding the Pledge. The school has a requirement to offer it but students should make their own, responsible decisions about whether they want to join in.
Whatever your beliefs are, the school is going to start saying it after winter break, so every student will need to decide whether they would prefer to join in or sit out.
What students need to know
By Megan Le, Makayla Schmierer and Kaitlyn Wornath
During winter break, Tigard High will be installing American flags in every classroom, giving students the option to pledge allegiance to the flag once a week. A law concerning students saying The Pledge has been on the books since the 1940s and was reinforced in 2013 by House Bill 3014. Tigard High School has been out of compliance, but moving forward the law will be enforced at the high school. With many different religions and viewpoints on the spectrum at Tigard, the effect it will have on the students and staff goes both ways.
The law states that not every student has to stand and participate in saying the pledge, but those who do not take part have to sit and remain silent in order to respect those who do. Senior Sierra Kruse understands and respects the school allowing students to sit out of the pledge but personally feels that the school is, “creating a culture of praise without thoughtful conversation around it.” In response to how Tigard High School should deal with the situation, Kruse suggests that the school should educate the student body about what the flag and what the pledge stands for. “Tigard should not be a school of blindly following nationalist tendencies without the necessary conversation of what we as students are pledging to,” Kruse said.
Principal Andy Van Fleet wants to make sure that every student feels comfortable and safe with the new changes being implemented after winter break, “No student is being forced to stand and pledge allegiance.” Administration had the conversation about the likely possibility that there will be students that choose to sit out of the pledge. “We see that NFL players have been taking a knee. Will we see this at Tigard High School too?” Van Fleet said, “Will we see people who will not want to rise?”
Senior Soren Peterson, former Jehovah’s Witness and current practicing Mormon, had to sit through the Pledge of Allegiance as a child even though it went against everything his religion stood for. “When I was younger, it was really awkward sitting down while others said the Pledge of Allegiance,” Peterson said. “You should be able to choose, because that’s what America’s all about. Even when we sing the national anthem in the gym, you can see students sitting down.” The enforcement of this law could cause members amongst the student body to feel awkward and uncomfortable while others pledge their allegiance to the flag.
History teacher Danny Rowe has worked at Tigard High School for a cumulative 15 years and only remembers saying the Pledge for a couple of those years. “Out of nowhere it just stopped, no explanation was given,” Rowe said. As teachers, are they required to stand and say the pledge of allegiance as well? Rowe thinks that as employees of the district teachers will have to uphold the laws that are set in place. “They are guided by different rules, and the only legal obligation is to provide it to the students. My gut response and hope is that they would, but from a legal perspective I’m not sure,” Van Fleet said. When teachers come back from break, they will need to be prepared to make their own decisions on what to do.
Sophomore Owen Wolf believes that standing has more meaning than just reciting the pledge. “I just think that if you’re prideful of the country that you live in you should be prideful of the flag and you should stand,” Wolf said. “If you find offense to it you don’t have to stand; it’s all opinion really.” Although he understands that students who opt out of participating in the Pledge of Allegiance do so because of religious reasons, he believes that those who are proud of the United States should be standing and pledging their allegiance to the flag.
Students will be given the opportunity to pledge to the flag once a week, or respectfully opt out. Whether the student body gets any formal training about this change is still up in the air. In any case, when classes resume in January, Tigard High School will be joining the ranks of many other schools throughout the state.
A history lesson
By Meghan Turley, Allegra Wesson and James Canfield
In April of 2013 Republican and Medford Rep. Sal Esquivel introduced House Bill 3014. He addressed the House and informed the representatives that although most people assume that Oregon public schools say the Pledge of Allegiance, he believed, most do not. He was particularly worried about public charter schools in Southern Oregon. The bill passed. In 2011, Esquivel had proposed the same bill, and it did not pass. In the end House Bill 3014 was mostly symbolic. It did nothing to change OR 339.875. All Oregon public and charter schools still have to offer students to opportunity to say the Pledge of Allegiance once a week. Students, on the other hand, cannot be be forced to say they pledge, and the bill did not change that. Standard practice for Oregon students saying the pledge includes placing the right hand over their heart, and standing facing the flag.
Oregon law 339.875 has existed since the 1940s, but a bill was proposed in 2013 to amend the law. Although only a few minor changes were made, it did not affect the main content of the bill. The bill was sponsored by representative Esquivel, along with representatives Krieger, Parrish, Smith, Weidner, and Whitsett.
The first reading of the bill was on Feb. 20, 2013. After a public hearing and a work session, the third reading for the House vote occurred on April 22, carried by Esquivel. At this reading, the House voted for the bill to pass with 42 to 16, with 2 not voting.
The Senate then voted and passed the bill on June 5, with a vote of 28 to 2. The final vote was once again in the House and passed with 49 to 8, with 3 not voting. June 24 was when the governor signed the bill, and the bill then became effective July 1, as a part of Chapter 466.
The bill states there needs to be a flag displayed outside of public schools and public charters schools, as well as in classrooms. Schools must also offer an opportunity once a week to recite the pledge of allegiance, which students have the option opt out of and instead hold a respectful silence. It cites the exact words for reciting the pledge, which includes the words, “under God”.
The law requiring the display of the flag and the opportunity to say the pledge has been changed several times since its inception. Originally in 1940, the Supreme Court ruled in the case of Minersville v. Gobitis that public schools could force students who would not join in the pledge on religious grounds to salute and say the Pledge. This case was brought to the Court after two school children, both Jehovah’s Witnesses, were expelled from their public school for refusing to salute the flag. This decision was reversed three years later in 1943, when in the case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Court ruled that schools couldn’t force any student to take part in the Pledge on the basis that it would violate their constitutional rights to free speech and free practice of religion.
Starting in the 90’s and most recently 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union have protected students’ rights to not stand and recite the pledge. In 2006, for example, the ACLU of Florida filed and won a case that struck down a local law that required students to join in the Pledge. They did the same in Pennsylvania in 2004 and in Texas in 2008.
The use of “under God” in the Pledge had also long been contested by the public. In 2002, Michael Newdow challenged a California school district that required students to recite the pledge because of its inclusion of “under God” on the grounds that he believed that it constituted the school district’s endorsement of religion. The Court of Appeals agreed with him and declared that the school had violated the constitution, but in 2004’s Elk Grove Unified School District v Newdow, the Supreme Court reversed this decision on the grounds that they didn’t believe that Newdow had standing to bring the case to court. Newdow again brought a suit to a federal district court in California that upheld the 2002 decision that it was unconstitutional; however, this was reversed again in 2010 in Newdow v Rio Linda Union School District where the Appeals Court determined that the school’s leading the pledge didn’t violate the students’ constitutional rights.
Why we should say the Pledge of Allegiance
an opinion by Jared Debban and Liam Futrell
As a student body over the course of many years, Tigard High School has been breaking Oregon state law. We have not set out a specific time each week to recite our pledge to honor those who have served our country and put their lives on the line so we can live freely in America.
Many political members in Oregon were against this bill that allows students to have the choice to freely say the Pledge of Allegiance in school once a week. In 2013 members of the Oregon House approved this bill to allow students to have the opportunity to say the pledge of allegiance in school. House Bill 3014 an update of OR, 339.875, states that students shall have the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance once a week.
The concern brought up by those around the community are that those students that do not choose to participate could potentially be shunned by other students. “Administration needs to roll this out carefully to the students; this needs to be a teaching moment for students,” history teacher Danny Rowe said. “There could end up being more backlash if this is not rolled out correctly.”
America is our country, it’s free because of the soldiers who fought for us and our rights as free citizens in America. Taking a minute out of our week to honor those that are serving and have served our country shouldn’t be up for debate. We are honoring our country and soldiers for their service and that is an important message that needs to be broadcast to students.
“We need to honor those that came before us, and respect our freedoms,” sophomore Sam Hofer said. “It can be disrespectful to not participate as American citizens living under the law.” As of now, Tigard has left us behind and not informed the student body that they have the ability to express their rights to say the pledge allegiance once a week.
When this bill became a discussion in court, all of the votes against the bill were from democrats, 16 democrats said no and the other 42 republicans and democrats voted yes to the bill. Their response was simply they didn’t want to see other students that don’t participate being made fun of for not doing what the other kids were doing. This law and this bill were not passed and put in place to discriminate against other students, they are simply expressing their rights to recite the pledge of allegiance without judgement from anyone else within the class.
As students, it is our given right and duty to say the Pledge of Allegiance once a week as stated in Oregon state law. Those students who don’t participate do so by practicing their legal rights through the First Amendment. Students who choose to practice their right to say the Pledge of Allegiance will start doing so and will put their patriotism on display.
Are we really ready for this?
an opinion by Avery Smith and Grace Curry
The American flag is a symbol of our freedom and unification; it is a banner which the country stands behind, but at this point we already have several flags flying in the school, why do we need one in every classroom? And why must students say the Pledge once a week?
If some students are extremely passionate about the flag, they would surely be pledging in their own time. Much like other beliefs, religious or otherwise, students should not be forced to observe their beliefs in school. Some students may not feel connected to the practice of pledging to the flag because they feel disenfranchised for reasons of race, religion or birthplace.
Other may not feel enthusiastic about the current political climate.“Right now our nation’s not in the best spot [to be] saying we’re proud of what we’re doing… seeing that the progress we’ve made is not very far,” junior Nevaeh Eckroth said.
There are many problems with suddenly starting to say The Pledge of Allegiance. Students who opt out may be seen as outcasts. On the flipside, those who are too enthusiastic, might be seen as too eager and a bit nationalistic. The whole idea of having kids pledge is a fine idea, but as a person dives deeper into it’s meaning, it loses its innocence.
When asked his thoughts about why Oregon demands students take part in this ritual, Government teacher Murray Carlisle said, “I think maybe at the lower grades and elementary I could see its usefulness to instill a sense of patriotism.” In his high school classes he teaches students that they have a First Amendment right not to participate in the Pledge. He wants them to understand the meaning behind what they learned as children.
This begs the question, is having the time for our student body to say the Pledge an act of true patriotism, or a mindless practice? If the latter, this pledge would be filled with empty words. On the contrary it isn’t, to some the Pledge has very meaningful words that can inspire people to follow the country, or fight for it.
This school obligation to start pledging to the flag will not go without complications.