Published June 29, 2010
Student Sean Harrington appears to have won his fight to bring the Pledge of Allegiance back into his Massachusetts high school -- except the principal's proposed solution leaves the daily honor to the nation's flag literally hanging in the hall.
Charles Skidmore, principal of Arlington High School in Arlington, Mass., has offered to allow students to recite the pledge before school begins -- but in the school's foyer and not in the classrooms, as 17-year-old Harrington had hoped.
Kathleen Bodie, Arlington superintendent of schools, told Fox News Radio that “The principal wanted to be very respectful about the pledge and be sensitive to the Supreme Court ruling that students are not forced to say the pledge. He wanted to be sensitive to the diverse group of students we have.”
Bodie said there has been reluctance to put the district's teachers in a position of reciting the pledge, and she acknowledged that some have raised concerns about its inclusion of the words “under God.”
“I don’t know if it’s all about ‘under God,’ but that is certainly an aspect of it,” she said.
She said the pledge is voluntarily recited in the district's elementary and middle schools, but it hasn't been recited at the high school in decades.
It is unclear whether Harrington, who led the fight to bring the pledge back to the school, will be satisfied with the compromise of having it recited in the foyer, and not in class. When he was a freshman, he noticed that there were no American flags in the classrooms, and he enlisted the aid of his fellow students to get them installed. He also began his fight to have students voluntarily recite the pledge.
Harrington recently presented school officials with a petition signed by 700 people, along with letters of support from lawmakers including Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn. But the request to have the pledge recited failed when the committee's vote ended in a 3-3 tie.
"I was really heartbroken," Harrington told Fox News Radio. "It's hard to think that something so traditional in American society was turned down."
His fight has received quite a bit of support from the community. "When I was going to school, it was an honor and a privilege to pledge allegiance to the flag," Francis De Guglielmo, 55, told the Arlington Patch. He called the ban an "absolute travesty" and a "disgrace."
Harrington, who will be a senior in the fall, told Fox News Radio: "I'm not a person who quits and I don't back down. It's a very righteous cause and needs to be followed through until the end."
Some committee members voiced concerns about forcing people to do something that might violate their beliefs – including religious beliefs. Among the no-votes was committee member Leba Heigham.
"Patriotism is a very personal thing for all of us, but I do not think it is in the school committee's best interest to mandate that any of our employees recite the pledge," she told the Patch.
But Harrington stressed that he was seeking a voluntary recitation.
"If we can't find one teacher who is willing to say the pledge, then the system we have is cracked," he told FOX News Radio, noting that a number of teachers signed his petition.
He said the school's ban on the pledge sent the wrong message. "It tells me that we've basically cast aside what our country is founded on," he said. "It's saying that we don't really care, and it's sad."