BETHLEHEM “I pledge allegiance to the flag...”
For millions of American schoolchildren, those are the words that mark the official start of every school day. The same is true for pupils at the Bethlehem Central High School — but not until just recently.
This year, the school is beginning the day with the Pledge of Allegiance after it was apparently absent from the program for many years.
Superintendent Michael Tebbano, who is the former principal of the high school, said he can't recall when or why the recitation of the Pledge was stopped.
“I guess our school district has been in violation in that we haven't done it at the high school and even school board meetings,” he said. “For some reason many years past it was stopped.”
Yes. It's an important daily gesture.
No. It has no place in the schools.
28 total votes.
Tebbano said he discussed the matter over the summer with High School Principal Charles Abba and the new Board of Education President Diane Giacone Stever, and both felt strongly about starting the reading of the Pledge back up at the high school and school board meetings. It was then that administrators realized the reading of the pledge was actually a legal requirement.
Under § 802 of the state's education law, schools must provide a program for the daily salute of the flag and recitation the pledge.
“There have been a lot of parents and kids happy that we are saying it again at the high school,” Tebbano said.
But students are not required by law to participate. South Colonie Central School District Superintendent Jon Buhner said the Pledge has always been recited in the district's schools.
“I know there has been case law for kids who for one reason or another choose not to participate,” he said. “Families have different beliefs and some kids refuse.”
In the Shenendehowa Central School District in the Clifton Park area, students read the pledge every morning as part of the announcements, said L. Oliver Robinson, Shenendehowa Central School District superintendent.
“As far back as I can remember that's been protocol,” he said. “Some students won't stand and we can't force them but that's very, very rare that we have one of those situations."
Tebbano made similar comments.
“The law specifically states that the pledge is supposed to be recited verbatim, and if anybody wants to opt out of it they have the legal right to opt out of it. We don't force people to do things they're uncomfortable with,” Tebbano said.
The Pledge has apparently always been said every morning at BC's elementary schools and at the middle school.
-Andrew Beam and Alyssa Jung contributed to this report