School's position on standing for pledge clarified

Nov. 22, 2002, midnight | By Annie Peirce | 18 years, 1 month ago

Principal Phillip Gainous will clarify the school's policy concerning the requirement of students to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance at a teacher meeting December 2.

This announcement follows the protestation of Junior Elliot Wolf, whose meeting with Gainous on November 21 influenced Wolf to decide not to lodge an official complaint against the school's position.

The school's position according to Gainous is and always has been:

  • It is not legal to punish students for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • Gainous still requests that students stand during the pledge as a sign of respect for those participating, and so as not to draw unwarranted attention to themselves.
  • Gainous requests that students who do not stand be sent to him rather than be reprimanded by the teacher or fellow students.
  • The school does not want students to think of the meeting with Gainous as a punishment.
  • Students who continue to refuse to stand will not be referred to the office again.
  • Individual teachers are not allowed to single-out, harass, embarrass, or otherwise punish students who do not stand. They should simply be sent to Gainous.

Gainous says he now knows officially that persuading students is "crossing the line" and he will refrain from attemption to do so even if the situation presents itself. Several years ago, Gainous admits, he used to coerce students into agreeing to stand for the pledge by threatening to call their parents. He says, however, that he has not done this in the past two years.

Most students who Gainous has talked to in the past, he says, misunderstood the school's policy. The school does not require students to say or believe the pledge; simply to stand in respect for those who wish to participate and to teach students new to the United States the general customs of our country. "Take kindergarten, when students are going to do whatever the teachers tell them to do. We teach that the custom is to stand. Many of the students in our school are like that: they don't know the customs. Is that coercion or is that teaching folk what the custom is in our country? If you go to another country, then you might not know how to operate. This is teaching them how to be polite; we're not trying to convert," said Gainous. "That's what this county is all about: you can do your own thing."

Gainous asks that all students stand in order to not draw unwarranted attention to themselves. If students have a problem standing for the pledge, for religious or other reasons, they should talk to him rather than to their teachers or other administrators. Gainous talks to students himself because he feels that the more decision makers that are involved, the more the treatment is likely to be uneven or unfair. He knows that many students simply forget to stand for the pledge because they are distracted when the announcements in the morning begin. Since Gainous only meets, he says, with six students at the most each year about this issue, he is glad to deal with all of the complaints personally in a "low-key, not threatening way."

Gainous's two concerns about announcing the school's position in the teacher's meeting are that, first, the issue will appear to be a big deal and people will believe that "droves" of students are coming down to talk with him. Gainous is also concerned that students will now use the school's more lenient position as an excuse not to participate. He admits standing for the pledge is the students' choice, but he wants to protect both those standing and not standing from abuse.

Wolf says he plans to begin standing in both his 3rd and 4th period classes after Gainous annouces the pledge policy. "I do believe that it is good to show that sign of respect towards those who are engaging in the ceremony. I will stand out of respect, but not out of a requirement," said Wolf.

Wolf feels that Gainous was very open to his ideas during his numerous meetings and that Gainous gave him an "extraordinary" amount of time to discuss the issue with him. Wolf says he appreciates that Gainous was willing to listen to him and "not summarily dismiss me as so many other people had."

As of now, the formal complaint and the petition that Wolf was planning to circulate are being dropped. Wolf will meet with Gainous again on Monday to discuss whether simply talking to the principal constitutes punishment.

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Annie Peirce. Annie Peirce is a senior in the Communications Arts Program and the public relations manager for Silver Chips. She is also an opinions editor for Silver Chips Online. She was born on October 25, 1984, in a hospital somewhere in Prince George's County; but doesn't … More »

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