School that eliminated Pledge of Allegiance quickly backtracks after intense backlash

School that eliminated Pledge of Allegiance quickly backtracks after intense backlash
The Atlanta elementary school that removed the Pledge of Allegiance from its student-led morning meeting changes its stance a day after the news of the change went viral. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

The Atlanta elementary school that eliminated the Pledge of Allegiance from the start of its school day has completely reversed its position just a day after the story went viral on the internet.

What’s the background?

Lara Zelski, the campus president of Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, issued a letter Tuesday announcing new changes to the students’ morning meetings. A copy of the letter was published on the school’s website.

“One change that we made to our morning meeting agenda this year is that we will not be including the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance each morning,” Zelski wrote, adding that children will continue to stand in participation of the school’s “Wolf Pack Chant.”

The move to eliminate the Pledge of Allegiance was made in an effort to kick off the school day as a “fully inclusive and connected community,” according to Zelski, who added that the school would create and incorporate a new pledge for the students over the coming months.

Zelski noted that the children would be permitted to recite the Pledge later in the day, should they have the desire to do so.

“This pledge,” Zelski wrote, “will focus on students’ civic responsibility to their school family, community, country and our global society. I will keep you informed of the progress with this. I am really looking forward to what our students create.”

Zelski’s letter has since been removed from the school’s website, and instead redirects to a statement from the school’s board chair, which reversed school’s position on the Pledge.

You can read more about Zelski’s original letter here.

What did the school board chairman say?

The update, published on the school’s website and signed by Lia Santos, governing board chair, reveals the school’s latest position on the Pledge of Allegiance.

Santos wrote that in rollout of the new change, “there was some miscommunication and inconsistency.”

“Starting next week, we will return to our original format and provide our students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge during the all-school morning meeting,” Santos wrote.

Read the full statement below:

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School has and will continue to provide students with an opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each school day. In the past, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited during our all-school morning meeting, but at the start of the school year, the daily practice was moved to classrooms. This change was done in compliance with state law [O.C.G.A. 20-2-310 (c)(1)] and aligned Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School with most other schools in the state who also say the Pledge of Allegiance in individual classrooms. However, it appears there was some miscommunication and inconsistency in the rollout. Starting next week, we will return to our original format and provide our students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge during the all-school morning meeting.

At ANCS, our priority is to provide our students with a safe and dynamic learning environment where they cultivate a love for learning, develop self-knowledge, and are constantly challenged to excel. We support our students in their growth and see it as our duty as educators to respect their First Amendment rights.

We are working together with the school administration to ensure we address concerns and feedback from our school family, while continuing to uphold and support the rights of every member of our school community.