School board opposes pledge proposal

By Thomas Garcia: Quay County Sun

The Tucumcari Board of Education has approved a resolution opposing the New Mexico Department of Education’s proposed rule change aimed at the Pledge of Allegiance.

“A letter opposing the rule change will be sent from our board of education to New Mexico Secretary of Education Veronica C. Garcia,” said Aaron, McKinney, Tucumcari School superintendent.

The proposal would change the mandatory reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance, each day in each public school within the state, according to a PED press release.

“The board and myself want to keep the pledge in the schools,” said Joe Barnett, Tucumcari school board president. “It is an important part of our nation and we need to fight to keep it.”

According to the release, the PED plans to add one sentence to the rule in order to align it with prevailing federal court decisions across the country.

That sentence would read “any person not wishing to participate in the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance shall, without consequence or retaliation, be exempt from reciting it and need not participate,” according to the release.

“There are some things worth fighting for and keeping the pledge in the schools is one of them,” said local resident Phillip Box during the public comments section of Monday night’s meeting. “I support the board’s decision to oppose this ruling.”

McKinney said if enough schools oppose the ruling then perhaps they can prevent the change. He said any student not wanting to recite the Pledge of Allegiance can already opt out.

“There are some cultures, religions and lifestyles that choose not to recite the pledge,” McKinney said. “It is their choice and a teacher can and will not force a child to say the pledge. The school will also not punish any child for not reciting the pledge.”

On June 25, the state’s Secretary of Education issued a press release announcing it will accept written public comments about the Pledge of Allegiance.

“The Pledge of Allegiance is an important American tradition that acknowledges the sacrifices of the men and women throughout our nation’s history,” Secretary Garcia said in the release. “However, some students may choose not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because of their religion or beliefs. These students must also be respected. The ability to discuss this issue openly and respect all views is what makes our country great. This rule change is part of a two-year effort to update various rules including the Standards for Excellence. The change updates an outdated regulation and will also provide clear guidance to schools on an issue that has clearly been settled by the courts.”

Written public comments will be accepted until 5 p.m. Monday.

Written comments can be sent to Mary Deets, Office of General Counsel, Public Education Department, 300 Don Gaspar, Santa Fe, NM, 87501.

Comments may be sent by e-mail to MaryH.Deets@state.nm.us or by fax to (505) 827-6681.