Date: August 25, 2011
Byline: Bill Bush
Columbus schools to find more flags for Pledge of Allegiance
Old Glory had to be printed on paper or projected on walls yesterday
Yesterday was the first day for many Columbus schools. Columbus City Preparatory School for Boys opened with a ceremony in which volunteers showed how to knot a tie, part of the uniform. Here, Vincent Hall, 12, gets help from Doug Buchanan of COSI Columbus.
Eight days before the start of classes, the Columbus Board of Education decided to require all district schools to lead students in the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of each day.
One problem: Not every classroom has an American flag, so school officials are scrambling to find solutions.
Yesterday, on the first day at most city schools, some flags were projected onto walls, others were printed on paper and still others were displayed on computer screens.
“Apparently, between the time that (the new policy) was passed and the start of school, they just couldn’t get enough flags,” said Columbus Board of Education member Mike Wiles, who sponsored the new policy. Before, schools were encouraged but not required to start the day with the pledge.
The pledge requirement was just one of many new features in the district this year, including a science- and math-focused program on the West Side and the expansion of programs for students interested in international affairs and single-gender education.
For example, the 1-year-old Columbus City Preparatory School for Boys received seventh-graders for the first time yesterday. The day there began with a ceremony in which volunteers showed the students how to tie a tie, which is part of their uniform.
Officials didn’t immediately know how many classrooms districtwide are missing a flag, but Wiles said he toured seven buildings yesterday and found many classrooms lacking one.
Although there are no penalties for violators, saying the pledge in the absence of a flag is a breach of the federal Flag Code.
“Under the Flag Code, I believe it’s a requirement,” said Steve Ebersole, spokesman for the American Legion of Franklin County.
That code states that the pledge “should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.” If in uniform, you “remain silent, face the flag, and render the military salute.”
Ebersole said it doesn’t matter whether the flag is cloth or plastic, big or small — you just need a flag to look at.
At East High School, students said small flags printed off computer printers were employed yesterday.
Junior Kaddara Franks, 16, said, “I love saying the pledge.”
But fellow junior Jamiyia Brightwell, 17, said it makes her feel she’s being treated like an elementary-school student.
“I don’t like it, but if I have to say it, I’ll say it,” Brightwell said.
Actually, no one has to say the pledge.
The district said it is a violation of federal law to coerce anyone into saying it, and the board’s policy notes that employees and students may not intimidate anyone into reciting it. So schools must offer the pledge, but participation is voluntary.
Meanwhile, Wiles said the conspicuous lack of flags in the schools is about to change — as long as they’re not too expensive.
“I’m sure if we ran into trouble, we could ask one of the service organizations and we’d have more flags than we knew what to do with,” Wiles said.
Ebersole said veterans groups are happy that Columbus schools have reinstated the daily pledge and probably “would be thrilled to be able to donate some flags to that effort.”
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