A public school in Brookline, Massachusetts is bringing back the Pledge of Allegiance. Except now, in a move that suggests the recitation and its words are controversial, the school is requiring parents to sign a permission slip so their kids can participate.
“It’s uncomfortable. The pledge is a promise, and I’ve always taught my kids to think very carefully before making any promise. It’s not a decision I want to make for them,” parent Judi Puritz Cook, who has two sons at Devotion School, told the Brookline Tab.
According to a letter sent to parents last week by Principal Gerardo Martinez, the school is implementing the Pledge in order to comply with state law.
"In order to meet the state legal mandate for public schools and to support our learning expectations, I will, once a week, as part of my morning announcements, recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag," he wrote in the letter. "Under our Constitution, neither teachers nor students can be mandated to participate in this exercise."
“I urge you to have a conversation as a family to help your children understand why I will be reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and to support them in feeling comfortable and confident in the decision on whether or not to participate,” Martinez added.
According to the Tab, it seems many parents aren't upset that the school is requiring special permission to recite the Pledge, but rather they are concerned the slips could mean parents are imposing their beliefs on their children.
Superintendent Bill Lupini said that won't be the case: no student will be compelled to participate or not participate simply based on how a parent filled out a permission slip.
"We’re celebrating diversity and including people… and then to be the one sitting there, waiting for the pledge to finish, [that] doesn’t feel inclusive,” said one parent who checked "No" on the slip. “Yeah, it’s weird. That’s the right word for it.”
The ACLU agrees. “I think that’s really strange that they’d do that… even children don’t lose their right of expression simply by walking into a schoolhouse’s doors,” said ACLU attorney Sarah Wunsch, who lives in Brookline.
“It suggests that this is a decision for parents alone. Are they going to enforce that?” she asked.
Also strange is a breakdown of the Pledge included in the permission slip. It explained every phrase, and what the school thinks it means. Next to the fragment "under God," the school says, “there is one Supreme entity for every citizen.”
It was later revealed that the principal included that portion without official permission.
This story has been updated.