By Steve Gunn
MORGANVILLE, N.J. – Every Monday morning at Asher Holmes Elementary, students recite two versions of the “Pledge of Allegiance.”
One is the traditional pledge of loyalty to the United States of America. The second is a pledge of loyalty to the school, and the teachers “who help us learn all we need to know for the future.”
As hard as it is to believe, this strange tradition has continued for years without anybody complaining, according to the school district superitendent. But recently some parents and one school board member questioned the appropriateness and legality of the school pledge.
Here are the words to the school pledge, which was reportedly written about 10 years ago by a fourth-grade teacher.
“I pledge allegiance to Asher Holmes and the Marlboro Township School District and to the teachers who help us learn all that we need to know for the future. We promise to respect ourselves and others, to try our best and always be proud of our schools.”
The school attorney quickly dismissed the constitutional challenge, and he’s probably right. The First Amendment protects a very wide range of odd proclamations and expressions, as well it should in a free society. There should be no question about the right of students to pledge allegience to their school if they choose.
But appropriateness is another matter. As we told a Fox News reporter who was interested in our opinion, the pledge to the school is a tacky ritual that should not be recited in the same manner as the national Pledge of Allegiance. It cheapens and dishonors the solemn oath the students make to their country.
All due respect to the educators who teach us everything we need to know, and to the schools we should always be proud of, but on the scale of reverence and respect they hardly compare to the men and women who have sacrificed and died to preserve our freedom.
That view is shared by school board member Bonnie Sue Rosenwald, who was quoted as saying, “Just because it was done for 10 years doesn’t mean it’s right and doesn’t mean it should continue to be done. Not when every Monday morning you are told to stand with your hand over your heart to pledge allegiance to Asher Holmes. I don’t think it’s right.”
Rosenwald suggested that parents be allowed to decide how to proceed, perhaps through through some sort of online poll or vote. That suggestion didn’t sit well with Superintendent David Abbott.
“Your job is policy, not administration, and you are getting very deep into administration rather than doing policy,” Abbott told Rosenwald. “I just want to caution you of where you are going here.”
If we were Rosenwald, we would have quickly reminded Abbott that school boards are elected to run school districts, and superitendents are hired by those boards to carry out their wishes.
She might have also cautioned Abbott about the proper way to address one of his superiors. After all, school boards fire superintendents all the time.
Perhaps Abbott would be smart to let the board members deal with issues like the “school pledge” the way they feel is best. If voters disagree with their decisions, they can fire them at the next election.