High school faculty members at a South Portland, Maine high school approved a new procedure on March 30 aimed to show that student participation in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is not required by law.
Faculty voted on the proposal after three students created a formal presentation asking for a change in the procedure preceding the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Senior class president Lily SanGiovanni proposed saying the phrase, "I now invite you to rise and join me for the Pledge of Allegiance," before reciting it.
Two other students, Gaby Ferrell and Morrigan Turner, presented the suggested procedural change alongside SanGiovanni during a staff meeting on March 19.
The presentation included the outcome of an online petition in which 86 students voiced support for the change.
“The faculty was impressed by the girls’ presentation,” said South Portland High School Principal Ryan Caron. “The petition showed there were more voices involved in support of this change.”
All but one of the 12 departments at South Portland High School voted to approve the proposal. The remaining department will likely approve the measure by the end of the day, Carson said.
The changes come after months of discussions between the students and faculty members about how to clarify to students that it is optional to say the pledge.
SanGiovanni, Ferrell and Turner said they think students feel pressure to recite the pledge.
In January, SanGiovanni added, "if you’d like to" at the end of her request for the student body to recite the pledge. Carson said he asked SanGiovanni to stop saying the phrase after she received strong backlash on social media.
Carson said he thinks the experience provided a learning experience of the community about the political process.
“Society as a whole is more open and sharing information is more immediate,” Caron said. “It’s great that we have students who want to make change and are willing to study an issue and follow it through.”
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