On November 12th, Sioux Falls, South Dakota school board members voted to stop requiring local high school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school. Students will still recite the pledge at major school events and functions, but the daily 30 second recitation that American students are familiar with will no longer take place.
The move was protested by a number of South Dakota groups before making national headlines last week. Fox News, for one, wasted no time picking up and publicizing the story.
School board members are now reporting that the negative press is getting a bit out of hand. Multiple members report receiving death threats and malicious phone calls during the last week.
“I ran for this office. I am extremely proud to hold this position and still am, because I’m here to do good, not here to do bad,” board member Todd Thoelke said. “But my family did not sign up for this. ... My girls have been terrified.”
Thoelke said one particularly disturbing caller threatened to come to his home and “eliminate” his “un-American” family.
Fellow board member Kent Alberty shared the most disturbing threat he’s received with South Dakota news station KSFY.
“The one that I guess got my attention the most was that this person feels that all five of us should be lined up and shot,” he said.
The school district has been forced to remove the board member’s phone numbers from the public directory.
Board member Kate Parker places blame for the threats on local and national reporters who she claims failed to accurately report the board’s decision. Most media outlets failed to mention that students will still say the pledge at major school events. Parker and other board members say the daily high school environment is not conducive to giving the pledge the reverence it deserves.
“It was very upsetting last week,” she said. “It’s not that we can’t handle the scrutiny or the differing of opinions, but when something is so egregiously misreported, and gets to the point where people are receiving death threats — to me, it’s just not very responsible reporting.”