Should students be told or invited to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance? That question was at the heart of Monday night's meeting of the Poway Unified School District.
During morning announcements at Twin Peaks Middle School, students were instructed "... For those who wish to participate please stand, others please stand or sit quietly" after parents of one child complained that students felt obligated even though they have a right not to participate.
When other parents found out, they brought the issue before the board last month. Some parents complained the introduction did not encourage respect for the flag.
Monday night, board members decided to invite students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. All schools in the district will introduce the pledge with the following message: "You are now invited to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. (pause) Ready, begin."
Poway Unified Superintendent John Collins said that every teacher and staff had a responsibility to protect the rights and safety of those who do not recite the pledge. "Just because they do not say the Pledge, doesn't mean they're not patriotic," said Collins.
While Collins and members of the school board voiced their support of the Pledge of Allegiance and patriotism. They also emphasized adherence to the law.
"For all we've said, I want to make sure that's very clear too. That is what the U.S. Constitution says, that's what the Supreme Court has told us. We will abide by that," Collins said, citing the need to respect the minority of those who do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Poway resident, musician and former city council candidate, Steve Vaus looked into the issue after his 12 year-old son brought the introduction to his father's attention.
"It was, in a sense, inviting apathy from the kids. And that's just the wrong message to send when it comes to patriotism and love of country," said Vaus. Other parents also expressed their dissatisfaction with the introduction.
Vaus and others said they were happy with the revision.
"That addresses the concerns of freedom not to recite the pledge but at the same time it's more encouraging. It invites participation. It invites patriotism and that's the important factor," he said.