The Story Of The Pledge


Etta L-S., Reporter

The Pledge of Allegiance is said at Ottoson every day, and students can pass or they can stand and recite it. It includes the words “under God”. At Ottoson, teachers don’t decorate their classrooms for religious holidays and everyone is included. This is a fair policy and makes sure no one feels like their beliefs are less than anyone else’s. Students’ races and ethnicities are all celebrated, and the environment of the school is one that tries to let everyone be heard. Then why is the Pledge of allegiance said over the intercom every morning, with students being asked to stand? It is made clear by the teachers that it is optional to do this, but the announcement does address everybody: “Could I have everyone rise for the Pledge of Allegiance?”

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” These are the words that the whole school hears every morning. The Pledge mentions god, a reference that not every religion in the school supports. When the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, there was no “under god”. That came later in 1954, because the United States wanted to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival here. Ms. McKenna, one of the art teachers at Ottoson, says that she feels that the Pledge is said to create community within the school. She says, “if it is just about being patriotic, I imagine there would be a better word that we could be using for [under God]”. She thinks that maybe not all kids realize this reasoning and that the topic of the Pledge is kind of brushed over.  This is especially unusual for Ottoson because we strive to be inclusive and kind to everyone. Saying “under God” is not in our usual policies, but the principal has to say the Pledge in the mornings. It’s the law.

The school couldn’t stop saying the Pledge so easily even if they wanted to. Schools must recite the Pledge under the law, and teachers must have a flag in their classroom. It is made clear that it is completely optional for students to rise or actually say the words, but they do have to hear it over the announcements every school day. The Massachusetts general law states that “failure for a period of five consecutive days by the principal or teacher in charge of a school equipped as aforesaid to display the flag as above required, or failure for a period of two consecutive weeks by a teacher to salute the flag and recite said pledge as aforesaid, or to cause the pupils under his [sic] charge so to do, shall be punished for every such period by a fine of not more than five dollars.” It is not a fine of much, but it is still a fine. Ms. McKenna, one of the art teachers at Ottoson, says that she believes that if the state is going to fine the principal for not reciting the Pledge, there should at least be a clear reason stated about why schools have to say it. There was a case lost against Acton-Boxborough Regional School District in 2013 (Doe vs. Acton Boxborough Regional School District). The plaintiffs were concerned about how reciting the Pledge might be discriminatory against atheists and Humanists and others who do not believe in god. As discrimination in public schools is illegal, if the Pledge was decreed religious it would be violating another law and would have possibly had to be removed. But in the end, the Supreme Judicial Court decided that the exercise of reciting the Pledge is solely patriotic and not discriminatory in any way (Massachusetts law about education).

The Pledge is an interesting subject, as it’s debatable whether it’s religious, and it’s the law for schools to recite it. Students may feel comfortable or uncomfortable hearing the Pledge over the loudspeaker, and opinions and feelings will differ from person to person. People might be able to do something about the “under God” bit and they might not. We’ll just have to see what happens with it in the future.