New law intended to make pledge more common at schools

Sunday, September 23rd 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ A state law that requires public schools to offer lessons about flag etiquette made saying the Pledge of Allegiance more common in Oklahoma schools this fall.

Lawmakers said Senate Bill 128 was intended in part to stop schools from phasing out the pledge to make more time for school lessons.

The law, which went into effect July 1, encourages teachers to begin each school day by leading students in the pledge. But it also requires schools to educate students about their right not to recite the pledge.

The law requires every public school to post written notices to inform students that under the First Amendment, they cannot be forced to say the pledge. A parent who saw one of the signs in a Broken Arrow school this week complained to state Rep. John Wright, who cosponsored the legislation in the House.

Wright said the signs are necessary to protect the freedoms that the flag represents.

``It's the totalitarian regimes that have to force and admonish people to take pledges,'' Wright said told the Tulsa World. ``In America, we reserve the right to choose our own beliefs. That's part of what the flag stands for.''

The law requires that the signs be posted in prominent places. In Jenks, school officials are complying by posting a sign in every classroom, usually near the spot where the American flag is hanging.

Most students readily participate in the pledge, but some object for religious or personal reasons, said Cheryl Kelsey, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

``There's a broad consensus among the public that the pledge needs to be part of the school day,'' Kelsey said. ``But it's also something that should not be forced on anyone.''