Published November 10, 2010
Despite pleas that the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in unison over the public address system, students at an upstate New York elementary school will continue to hear only a six-word prompt before they continue the recitation in their classrooms.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag" will be heard over the intercom at North Collins Elementary School, but then the sound system will shut off and the students will finish the pledge in class at their own pace, Ben Halsey, superintendent of North Collins Central School District, told FoxNews.com on Wednesday.
"It has been the philosophy of the building that the pledge does indeed get recited every day, but it gets recited by teachers and students individually, so the pace is appropriate for their level," Halsey said. "The public address system simply serves as a prompt to start the pledge."
He said the practice enables students to recite the pledge at their own pace, which is typically slower for younger students.
Dozens of people, including a board member who resigned over the controversy, attended a school board meeting Tuesday night to plead to have the pledge recited in its entirety over the school's intercom. The former board member, Rosemarie Troidl, resigned on Oct. 26 after fielding what she said was a growing number of complaints from parents and residents about the pledge.
Troidl, whose daughter, a fourth-grader, is one of a number of students who recite the first six words on the intercom on a rotating basis, said the school should be able to squeeze in the entire pledge, since all students at the school recite a 68-word "character pledge" each morning.
"What the people were asking for is that the pledge be given the same amount of respect as the character pledge," Troidl told FoxNews.com on Wednesday. "If our children are able to say the character pledge in full, you can't do the same thing for the pledge?"
Troidl, a board member for the past two years, said critics of the current system submitted a petition with 250 signatures asking that the policy be changed. But she said she was not optimistic entering Tuesday night's meeting.
"Their minds were already made up," she said. "What upsets me is that the people made such a simple request. They weren't asking for anything other than giving the Pledge of Allegiance the same amount of respect as the character pledge. But I knew they weren't going to do anything."
On average, Troidl said, it takes about 10 seconds to recite the entire pledge. She said her daughter has frequently said she'd like to recite the entire pledge to students school-wide, but fears she'll be disciplined for doing so.
"I said it in its entirety as a kid, and it's a learning process," Troidl said. "It should be said as a unified group."
But as far as school administrators are concerned, the matter is largely closed, said Halsey, who added that he was surprised about how heated the controversy became.
"It's been very troubling to someone like myself," he said. "We do teach patriotism and the meaning of the flag. All those things are in place. It's been a misunderstanding."
Troidl, for her part, said there is no misconception involved.
"It's closed issue, it's not going to change," she said. "Where's the democracy there?"