Two days before Thanksgiving, the principal at Fairfax, Virginia’s Westfield High School introduced a new program to encourage students to learn the Pledge of Allegiance in different languages.
A week later, the principal reportedly canceled the program and apologized to students for the “offensive” idea, according to Stephanie Somers, mother of a senior at the school.
Somers said her son was excited when asked to recite the pledge in Spanish on Monday, but by Tuesday afternoon the program was scrapped over complaints from the community.
“They had a native Spanish speaker read it Tuesday. End of the school day Tuesday afternoon the principal comes on and says he was sorry. He was sorry, he didn’t want it to be offensive … they canceled the program,” Somers told WTTG.
“It was my understanding it would be Spanish, French and German, and I think there’s 80, 90 different languages at this school and I thought that would be a cool thing,” she said.
Fairfax county Public Schools contends the program wasn’t canceled but rather designed to only last the two days before Thanksgiving as a means to “promote engagement and inclusion,” according to a prepared statement to WTTG.
“A school administrator suggested students lead the pledge in Spanish to promote engagement and inclusion,” the statement read. “Administrators believed this was an opportunity for other voices and languages to be heard and recognize the school diversity.”
The statement danced around the fact the program self-destructed, but noted that “communicating in advance the intent of an activity with parents and students will help ensure the exercise meets it’s (sic) stated goal.”
Somers maintains that complaints caused the cancellation, and she said she’s baffled by both the principal’s apology and the negative reaction to the program.
“It’s inclusive, it’s making them proud of their heritage and their ethnicity,” she said. “So I was surprised that instead of continuing it, there was a we’re nixing it and an apology. Didn’t seem right to me.”
“What is the harm in saying the Pledge of Allegiance in many different languages to make everyone feel it, love it and know it?” Somers said. “I don’t understand.”
She questioned whether political issues factored into administrators’ decision to pull the plug.
“You’re thinking, ‘If it would have been Dutch, or German, or French, would that have been as controversial?’” Somers said. “I don’t know given our climate right now.”