Hazen’s lesson in democracy: pledge reinstated after community forum

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Hazen’s lesson in democracy: pledge reinstated after community forum

Courtesy of VideoBlock.com

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Courtesy of VideoBlock.com

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On Feb. 7, the Hazen Union High School student council voted to reinstate the Pledge of Allegiance as part of the school’s morning announcements. This came after a public meeting was held by the school’s principal, David Perrigo, to address community concern that the pledge was not being recited anymore.
The decision followed a Jan. 31 meeting when over 50 people gathered at the Hazen Union High School auditorium to address the fact that the school no longer included The Pledge of the Allegiance as part of its “Wildcat Wakeup,” which includes the daily announcements delivered through the school’s intercom system. Those who attended were met at the door by Hazen senior Jennifer Tedesco, who passed out small American flags and a handout that outlined the history of the pledge.

The meeting was hosted by Hazen Principal David Perrigo after the school’s exclusion of the pledge became a discussion on social media. The meeting began with Perrigo introducing himself and clearing up the misconception that he was responsible for the exclusion of the pledge.
“I arrived this last year. The Pledge of Allegiance hasn’t been recited here for a long time, some of the chatter on the internet is that I am the arch evil angel that took away the pledge. Quite the contrary,” said Perrigo.

Although the exclusion of the pledge is suddenly news, Elliot Kimble, a senior at Hazen and an executive member of the student council, says that the pledge hasn’t been said in a long time.
“Around 2016 there was a problem with the intercom system and we kind of let the pledge fall to the wayside,” Kimble said.

Many students, including Arron Molleur, wondered why the pledge had stopped. “It feels like it’s been a couple years since [the pledge has been said] and I do not know why it stopped,” Molleur said.
The public meeting included a PowerPoint presentation entitled “Hazen explores the art of Civil Discourse” and began with the group brainstorming ground rules for the night. Perrigo then asked the crowd what questions they should try to answer.

“Why is there a disagreement about saying the pledge?” Amy Holloway, a member of the Hazen school board, asked.

Michael Metcalf, who is a retired history teacher from Hazen Union, a part time instructor at NVU Johnson and a member of the Hazen school board, added his own perspective to the question.
“I think it’s a good thing to know what the pledge means. Some of us have gray hair enough that it was a little different when we went to school,” Metcalf said.

Following questions from the audience a short YouTube video made by a user named US 101 was shown.

“I’m not a historian, but neither are you,” the host of the video said in the opening.
“So how about we the people learn this together.”

Many in the crowd commented on what they saw as an anti-pledge bias in the video. “While I appreciate the student council was shown other sources this was the only video my class was shown,” Tedesco said.
Tedesco also recalled a teacher at the school telling her that she could leave the classroom if she wanted to recite the pledge when Tedesco questioned the teacher about displaying a rainbow inclusivity flag but not an American flag in the classroom.

While Tedesco was troubled by the incident she described, students such as Molleur have not shared her experience.

“I do not feel pressured by the teachers in what to support and what not to support. Teachers can be a little biased and or preachy sometimes, but personally I haven’t had much or any experience with teachers speaking against the pledge in class,” Molleur said.

Tedesco’s father Ted was among those who attended the public meeting.

He argued that the pledge is beyond political affiliation and simply reinforces the ideals of and liberty and justice. Tedesco stated that the meaning of these ideals is largely subjective.

“There are lots of good reasons to say the pledge,” Ted Tedesco said. “The pledge is an expression of ideals. It’s a prime opportunity for a teacher to ask [the class] ‘What have you done today to foster freedom and liberty? Have you spoken out against injustice?’”

Tedesco went on to highlight some of the Supreme Court cases that were not included in the video and what the rulings meant.

“In 1943 at the height of WWII the United States Supreme Court ruled that no oath of allegiance is compulsory,” Tedesco said. “No one can be forced to recite anything. That’s amazing that in the middle of war we were thinking of individual liberties. There was a big case in 2004, and another in 2014. In every instance state and federal courts said the pledge was completely constitutional and can be said in any venue public or private.”

Michael McGlynn, a Woodbury resident, questioned whether the removal of the pledge was disrespectful to military veterans who were alumni at the school.

“We know a few students that went to Hazen gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” McGlynn said. In 2010 Army Sgt. Tristan Southworth was among one of those Hazen alumni that lost his life in the line of duty. Southworth was killed in Afghanistan while trying to extricate another soldier. Southworth’s death hit the small community hard, and is still a regular topic of discussion.
While the crowd at the event remained civil, it was made very clear that the majority of those in attendance supported the return of the pledge.

According to Kimble the night was both a success and a learning experience for him.
Perrigo noted that the meeting was positive and he expected a student decision in the near future, an expectation that proved correct. “I expect in a week or so this will be a part of our community again,” said Perrigo, noting that ultimately it would be up to the student body as to how the pledge was delivered, declining to speculate if it would be included in the public announcements delivered each morning as part of the Wild Cat Wake-Up.

Molleur was among the majority that was happy to see the pledge returned.

“I love America and everything it stands for, the history, and the people who serve, and it seems disrespectful to just have kids forget about the pledge,” Molleur said.

During a school assembly on Thursday Feb. 7, Perrigo announced the student council’s decision and informally asked students to weigh in.

“The principle asked students to raise a hand if they would like the pledge as a double check and it was a clear majority in favor of it,” Molleur said.

With the pledge returned to the morning announcements, Hazen rejoins all other schools in the district that include the pledge as part of their morning routine.

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