A bill involving the recital of the “Pledge of Allegiance” in schools has passed its first House Committee.
Rep. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze) is the bill’s House sponsor.
“Currently, under law every school in all 67 districts have to post somewhere on campus a disclaimer that says ‘you are allowed not to say the pledge,’” he said. “Unfortunately, in my county, we had a parent, came to the school board with a lawyer and required that it be posted in every classroom where the flag appeared. So, today, as we speak, right before you say the pledge, below that is a disclaimer, saying that you don’t have to say the pledge.”
The measure—which has the backing of Florida Association of School Superintendents—was brought to him by Santa Rosa School Superintendent Tim Wyrosdick. Since the incident occurred in his area, Wyrosdick says in every classroom, he was forced to put signs up, stating “Students are invited to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of our country, but they are not required to do so.”
So, Broxson says his bill is the solution.
“What this bill will do is simply say rather than posting it on campus, it’d be put in the handbook, prior to the school year and the parents and the student could read it and discuss it, and if there was a concern, whether they could say the pledge, it would be dealt with in the handbook,” added Broxson.
Broxson says this is a particularly big deal in his area—where he even organized a local hearing.
“It was a major issue back home. In fact, we had a public hearing concerning this because as you can imagine, a lot of people—especially in my area—that 35 percent of my county is military-supported our economy,” he continued. “In Okaloosa County, its 70 percent. So, there was concern that there would be a disrespect for that process of encouraging our kids to say the Pledge. So, there was a lot of emotion.”
Multiple people showed up for Broxson’s Town Hall meeting in December to speak against the classroom signs. Among them was retired lieutenant colonel Debbie Gunnoe, who served nearly 30 years in the U.S. Air Force.
“We are Americans. This is America. We say the Pledge. We stand for the National Anthem. We show respect for our flag, and if we quit teaching our children what it means to be Americans. If we allow the removal of faith and patriotism and family values from the schools, then we have done exactly what Khrushchev said we would do. We have destroyed America from within. Thank you very much,” she said, to applause.
Overall, Broxson says his bill still allows students to recite the Pledge, and gives others the right not to say it.
“Some people believe that maybe we overreacted in Santa Rosa by posting it in every classroom. But, this will codify the procedure that we should go through in notifying the parents and notifying the kids through the handbook, that if they chose not to, which is incredible to believe that would happen, a wholesale around the state…but, if they chose not to say the Pledge, there is a procedure that they would go through.”
And, the K-12 Subcommittee passed the measure unanimously. Meanwhile, its Senate companion by Sen. Greg Evers (R-Baker) has not yet had a hearing.
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