NORWOOD PARK — Taft High School’s local school council voted to keep reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at every council meeting, even though students at the school don’t currently recite the pledge to start their day.
During the public comment section of Wednesday’s LSC meeting, which was both in-person and virtual, several alumni and family members of those who served in the military spoke in favor of keeping the Pledge of Allegiance recited at the top of each meeting.
Bill Swaggerty, an Army veteran, said he was stunned that a vote on the issue was happening so close to the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He said saying the pledge represents freedom and those who fought for the country.
“Do not take this freedom away from others who want to [recite it],” Swaggerty said.
Others agreed, saying the Pledge of Allegiance brings people together.
Only one LSC representative spoke out against keeping the pledge. This is the second time the council took up the issue. The LSC voted in July but was deadlocked, according to Nadig Newspapers.
Kristin Garcia said she understands the connection to nationalism the pledge presents but didn’t view the council’s recitation of it as appropriate in a school setting.
“I’m not sure a governing body and school needs to [have it] be mandatory,” Garcia said.
However, the council voted 7-3 in favor of the pledge, with one member abstaining. Out of the 13 council members, only 11 voted because two attended the meeting virtually, which barred them from voting on the issue, according to the LSC’s bylaws, said Taft LSC Chair Alix Davila.
Davila, who voted against the measure, said the pledge was not recited at the Amundsen High School LSC, which she was part of for five years.
Taft Principal Mark Grishaber said Chicago Public Schools does not require students to recite the pledge, but voted in favor of keeping it at LSC meetings.
When asked by a veteran if the student-parent body could get the students to also recite the salute, Davila said “LSCs do not have the authority to tell the schools to recite the pledge.”
Others at the meeting said the pledge has been part of Taft’s LSC tradition since the council was formed in the late 1980s and want to keep it that way.
The Illinois Board of Education ruled in 2017 that students “shall” sing the National Anthem, recite the pledge and salute the flag, but “no student shall be compelled” to do so.
The Supreme Court has also ruled in the past that students can opt out of reciting the anthem or pledge and forcing them to do so infringes on First Amendment rights.
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