Massachusetts General Law states that public schools must have an American flag in every classroom and that all students must say the Pledge of Allegiance -- daily.
The law and its practice weren’t in question this fall when a parent, who was attending an after school program in his child’s class, noted the absence of the American flag.
He wondered if the Pledge of Allegiance was being said and sent his thoughts through cyberspace and onto the Lexington Listserve. Twenty-seven people had various thoughtful responses for and against the recitation.
More importantly, it begged a few questions and this article.
Obviously there are flags outside every school and public building. Are there really flags in every classroom? And do Lexington students say the pledge?
After more than a month of phone calls, the answers to those questions are still something less than crystal clear.
The first calls went to Superintendent Paul Ash. When they went unanswered, School Committee Chair Mary Ann Stewart helped, first with emails and then with telephone interviews. School principals and anonymous interviewees provided more information.
“I checked with the superintendent who checked with principals,” Stewart said. “To the best of my knowledge at the time, the pledge was being said in the elementary schools.”
And “yes,” she said," there is a flag in every room in all the schools.”
Those elementary school officials who were reached supported that assertion.
“Yes, there are flags in every classroom,” said Bridge Elementary School Principal Meg Colella. “We say the pledge over the loudspeaker every morning. Kids may choose to participate, but we do do it.”
Harrington Elementary School Principal Elaine F. Mead said her school also has flags in every classroom. The pledge is said “all-school every Friday,” she added. “Then the other days it may or may not be built into the classroom routine. It’s up to the teachers, but most seem to do it on a daily basis.”
An official at Hastings Elementary School confirmed the flag in every classroom and that the pledge is said every Friday. Teachers there also have the option of fitting it into the school day.
Principals at Bowman, Estabrook and Fiske elementary schools could not be reached while this story was being written. However, an official at Fiske said the pledge is not said there, but there are flags in every classroom.
High school students interviewed at various Lexington shops, eateries and in Emery Park after school all said the pledge was not said in high school. Without exception, they all said it was recited in middle school and it stopped when they began high school.
“We don’t say it in a formalized way,” Lexington High School Principal Natalie Cohen said.
That’s the quick answer, she said. But there’s a thoughtful proviso, one that’s taken the last few months.
“I’ve been working with a small student group to institute a way to recite it effectively," said Cohen, who wants to see the pledge effectively and respectfully. “It’s a process that requires a lot of input from different parties."
Cohen said before she came to LHS “there were difficulties with the process being taking seriously.”
She won’t let that happen again.
“I take it seriously,” she said. “I don’t want anything about the Pledge of Allegiance to be a mockery.”
Cohen and her students hope to see some sort of resolution sooner rather than later.
According to Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 71, Section 69 -- the same law cited by Stewart in her initial email response to Patch -- flags shall be displayed in classrooms and assembly halls where opening exercies are held each school day and "each teacer at the commencement of the first class each day in all grades in all public schools shall lead the class in a group recitation of the 'Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag."
And there are penalities for noncompliance. Under the law, failure to display the school flag for five consecutive days or failing to salute the flag and recite the pledge are punishable of a fine of not more than $5.
Is it up to individual schools or the administration to enforce those requirements? Do we have the right to force students to recite the pledge? Does the “one nation under God,” influence your thoughts?