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1 17th March 22:27
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Default Back to school: New law mandates pledge honoring Texas flag

Back to school: New law mandates pledge honoring Texas flag


Monday, August 18, 2003

SAN ANTONIO— Supporters of a new law requiring Texas students to recite a pledge
to the Texas flag and observe a moment of silence say it helps promote
patriotism and build character.

Students also will pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag. But critics of the new
measure argue that the new state measure violates the First Amendment. They also
note the requirement will stretch already thin budgets because a Texas flag must
be present in every classroom.

Those who bring a note from home can be excused from the pledges. But Pam
Parker, an attorney with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, is
concerned about how school districts will implement the rules.

She said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling states that pupils have First Amendment
rights, including the ability to decline participation even without a note from

"I suspect that we will have a lot of teachers that have not received the proper
guidance from the district and will not know how to deal with these issues,"
Parker told the San Antonio Express-News in Monday's editions.

The law's author, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, said his motive was to encourage pupils
to honor the flag and be loyal to their country.

"When we say the pledge, we bring a sense of patriotism and loyalty both to the
U.S. and the state we live in," said Wentworth, R-San Antonio.

School districts in Central Texas have been preparing to comply with the new law
as school begins Monday. Officials at Northside School District said they are
expecting to spend about $50,000 to buy flags and flag holders, spokesman
Pascual Gonzalez said.

District officials handed out cards with the short pledge during the annual
teachers' rally and assembly at Warren High School last week. At North East
School District, educators spent about $15,000 for flags and mounts.

A state pledge has existed since the Texas Legislature adopted it in 1839,
during the years the state was an independent republic. But some teachers
expressed surprise when they were told about the new law at the rally for
Northside educators Tuesday.

Hundreds of teachers, pledge cards in hand, recited the pledge inside the high
school auditorium: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas,
one and indivisible."

Many teachers acknowledged they hadn't previously known the pledge.

"I can't believe they never taught me that in elementary school," said Sara
Rodriguez, a third-grade teacher at Rhodes Elementary School.

Susan Mann, an English teacher, said she expects the new law will spark some
interesting discussions among her students at Holmes High School, where the
pledge has been recited for years.

"I find it ironic that the pledge is a priority among legislators, instead of
putting money into the schools," said Sarah Simmons, an English teacher at Hobby
Middle School. "Ironic, but not surprising."
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