MINNEAPOLIS – The commander of a suburban American Legion post has drawn a line in the sand. There'll be no more donations to local schools from Post 1776 until the district requires all students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We give between $80,000 and $100,000 a year," Commander Duane Glum of Post 1776 in Apple Valley said Thursday. "We're going to withhold all (donations) until the school board acts."
Independent School District 196 -- which has schools in Apple Valley, Burnsville, Eagan and Rosemount -- says the issue isn't patriotism. It's proper procedure.
Glum has been holding the money over the district since the school board's Sept. 24 meeting.
That's when board member Judy Lindsay proposed adding to the agenda a proposed new policy that would require students in kindergarten through 12th grade to start each day by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by one minute of silence.
But the board decided such a long-term policy change needed to go through proper channels. Lindsay's proposal was tabled and sent to the policy review committee, which is expected to bring it back to the board for action.
"When you have a change in policy in an organization, and especially in a public organization, there's a very set process for how you do that and you notify the public when you're changing policy to give them an opportunity to comment on it before you do it," said Tony Taschner, spokesman for District 196.
The board and district officials aren't against students saying the Pledge of Allegiance, Taschner stressed, "but this should go through proper channels."
"I think that was a bunch of crap," Glum said. "After this tragedy, they should have used their head."
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade already recite the pledge daily and Superintendent John Haro has said he's certain all students will be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance once the policy goes through proper channels. School officials want students to be part of the process in developing the policy, Taschner said.
Taschner believes heightened emotions following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon have contributed to the misunderstanding.
"The frustration I've had is that it's never been the issue of whether students should say the pledge or not, it's how do we get there with the secondary students, the middle and high school students," he said.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Taschner said older students talked a lot about patriotism and what they could do, including reciting the pledge.
"They were already headed down that path and they were going to implement this on their own. It might look different in different buildings based on how they decide to do it, but the bottom line is that they would be reciting the pledge," he said.
Glum said there has been no discussion with other officials of Legion Post 1776 about the decision to withhold donations. That will come at the next meeting on Oct. 29.
Nonetheless, he says he's holding firm.
"I'm still waiting for the policy change," he said.
A push this spring in the Legislature to require the pledge in schools was defeated. The chief sponsor of the measure has vowed to try again next year.
The U.S. Supreme Court decided in 1943 that a school district can require that the pledge be recited, but children cannot be punished if they opt out. Education Secretary Rod Paige has urged all elementary and secondary schools in the country to recite the pledge simultaneously at 1 p.m. CDT this Friday to demonstrate their patriotism.