The Brookline School Committee passed a revised version of the Flag Protocol and Pledge of Allegiance policy Thursday night as the subject continued to stoke strong sentiments from the public.
The vote was 5-0 with Judy Meyers and Helen Charlupski abstaining. Barbara Scotto and Susan Ditkoff were unable to attend the meeting.
“There has been such strong pro and against recitation of the pledge. There are many, many—not only parents and children who want to recite the pledge—there are many members of our staff that want to recite the pledge,” said Meyers. “What this policy is trying to do is give people an opportunity to do that.”
The controversy first arose during the winter when Devotion School families were sent a form that some saw as a . That drew attention to the district’s policy, which some people deemed unconstitutional. Meyers noted that the revised policy “is now constitutional.”
Under the revised policy, a member of the school community will have an opportunity to recite the pledge once a week as part of school-wide morning announcements, but no one will be forced to do so.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, people for and against the recitation of the pledge voiced their opinions.
“I think the basic issue is still this issue of a classroom recital—group recital—even if it is allegedly voluntary, which it isn’t in our opinion, in a classroom where there is peer pressure,” said Brookline resident Mark Rosenthal.
He went on to say he favored an assembly where students and staff members would be able to attend if they wanted recite the pledge.
Rosenthal also questioned how the committee can be sure that the classroom recitation isn’t coercive, noted the lack of a public hearing on the issue, and mentioned the possibility of bringing the subject to the fall town meeting.
“I don’t think it will be pleasant,” said Rosenthal.
Paula Torres, a mother with two children at Devotion, was on the other end of the spectrum.
“I’m for the Pledge of Allegiance,” said Torres. “I don’t know what the big deal people are making about it. In the old times, everybody was made to do it. There was never any discussion.”
She added later, “No one is obligated to do it if they don’t want to do it.”
[Update: changed the arguably poetic "Pledge of Alliance" reference.]