Teachers in a California school district are upset over the district's longstanding practice of having elementary students recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning in both English and Spanish, KGET-TV in Bakersfield reported.
Reciting the Pledge in both languages has been the practice for elementary schools at Lamont School District since 2002, according to the station. The city is 97 percent Hispanic, and 35 percent of elementary students are taught in a bilingual program where instruction is half in English, half in Spanish.
"I think you offer a great way for students to feel included, and it's the Pledge of Allegiance, no greater honor than to be able to say the Pledge of Allegiance in a second language," Fred Molina, the principal of Alicante School, told the station.
But not all teachers agree: Barry Champagne told the station there has been no opportunity to meaningfully discuss the way the district has students recite the Pledge.
"One of the issues with it being in Spanish is that not everyone got a chance to voice their opinion doing it that way. Every time it was brought up for discussion, it was set aside and we never got a chance to democratically vote for it or even discuss it any further," Champagne said.
Lamont Assistant Superintendent Ricardo Robles told the station this was the first he's heard of complaints about the matter.
"We haven't had any complaints from anyone about this issue," Robles said. "We feel it's a very positive thing for our district, for our students, for our community."
Robles said he plans to meet with teachers to discuss whether any specific changes should be made.
Robert Price, an opinion writer for the Bakersfield Californian, defended the bilingual recitation in a column Saturday, writing that it's important to have kids recite the Pledge in a way they understand, lest it becomes "just a string of random syllables one utters before one takes a seat."
"[H]ere, in Lamont, we have children pledging their allegiance in a way they can grasp, in a ritual of patriotic commitment carried out by virtually all other American children," Price wrote. "But that's not good enough: Kern County demands conformity over comprehension, or what passes for comprehension at that age."