A controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance at an elementary school has divided a small New York town and resulted in the resignation of a school board member.
Rosemarie Troidl told Fox News Radio she resigned as a member of the North Collins School Board after her fellow board members refused to order students to recite the entire Pledge of Allegiance together -- not just the opening line.
“We were raised to respect the flag,” Troidl said, suggesting it was an issue of patriotism. “There's no excuse for the board to have allowed this.”
She said around 250 people have signed a petition asking the school board to change the policy and direct children at North Collins Elementary School to recite the Pledge in unison. Residents angered by the policy plan to speak at a school board meeting planned Tuesday night at the North Collins High School library.
“The principal doesn’t think the children get the full benefit of saying the Pledge as a group because children say it at different speed,” she said. “We grew up learning it as a group.”
The morning starts with the entire student body reciting a “character pledge” in unison. Then, someone recites the opening line of the Pledge before the intercom is turned off.
“If the school can say in unison a character pledge, why can they not recite as a group the Pledge of Allegiance to our flag?”
Ben Halsey, the superintendent of schools, told Fox News Radio he never expected the controversy to get to “this level.”
“It’s a snowball rolling down a hill at this point,” he said, disputing any allegations that the school system is unpatriotic.
As for the character pledge, he said it’s part of a larger curriculum effort about making good choices in life.
“It’s not well known and that’s why they are using it as a way to start their day,” he said, disputing any allegations that the school system is unpatriotic.
“We have Flag Day ceremonies, we recognize our veterans, we do teach patriotism,” he said. “We do teach respect for the flag and our classrooms are saying it (the Pledge). It’s just not being led, if you will, the way they feel it should be.”
However, he said students are given the opportunity to opt out of saying the Pledge.
“We feel how we do it is really individualized and teaches what the Pledge stands for and what the flag stands for,” he said. “The teacher and the classmates say it in their individual classrooms where the teacher can monitor and teach what it means rather than making a robotic statement that’s made over the PA system.”
That explanation doesn’t set well with Troidl.
“If the children can recite the character pledge in unison, they can recite the Pledge of Allegiance,” she said. “It’s a 68-word character pledge. The Pledge of Allegiance has 31 words.”
She plans on presenting her petition to the school board tonight.
Todd Starnes is host of Fox News & Commentary, heard on hundreds of radio stations. His latest book is "God Less America: Real Stories From the Front Lines of the Attack on Traditional Values." Follow Todd on Twitter@ToddStarnes and find him on Facebook.