Taft LSC deadlocked on whether to continue reciting Pledge of Allegiance at council meetings; revote planned
by BRIAN NADIG
A motion on whether to continue the practice of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at Taft High School Local School Council meetings resulted in a tie vote at the council’s July 1 organizational meeting.
The vote was deadlocked at 6-6, but one council member was absent, and the LSC plans to revote on the issue at its next meeting, which is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14. Tie votes are rare for the council.
The Taft LSC has been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance for years, but it is not clear if it has been doing so throughout its entire history. LSCS were formed in the late 1980s as part of school reform efforts, and reciting the pledge is not on the recommended agenda which the Chicago Public Schools provides for councils.
“I’m not clear why we do it. It just does not seem necessary,” LSC teacher representative Bridget Doherty Trebing said.
Taft LSC chairwoman Alexandra Davila said that the pledge is not recited at the meetings of the Amundsen High School LSC, which she has served on.
LSC community representative Anita Bernacchi and parent member Maria McDorman spoke in favor of keeping the pledge at meetings and said that it represents a form of “respect” for the country.
“To me, it’s tradition. We say it everyday at school,” Bernacchi said.
At Taft, however, the school has not led students in the pledge on a daily basis for many years. Some schools have opted to forgo the pledge since students cannot be required to recite it in accordance with court rulings and CPS policy.
Both Illinois law and CPS policy state that elementary and secondary public school students “shall” recite the pledge each school day, while the CPS policy further states that students also “shall” sing the National Anthem and salute the flag. The Illinois law took effect for elementary schools in 1979 and was expanded to include secondary schools in 2002.
However, the same CPS policy makes it clear that student participation is optional, stating that “no student shall be compelled to sing the National Anthem, recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag.”
In addition, courts have ruled that it would violate students’ First Amendment rights if they are compelled to recite the pledge.
The pledge has been around since the late 1800s, undergoing some revisions since it was first written. One of those revisions was the addition of “under God” during the Cold War in 1954.
Voting to keep the pledge at LSC meetings were McDorman, Bernacchi, parent members Chris Raguso, Laura Keeling and Michelangelo Scalera, and principal Mark Grishaber. Voting not to have the pledge on council agendas were Davila, Trebing, teacher representative Scott Plencner, parent member Karen Leick, staff member Mary Kay Cobb and community representative Julieta Pasko.
Not present was student representative Amelia Manno.
For next school year the council plans to meet the second Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. starting in September, except there is no meeting scheduled for January. The Sept. 14 and Oct. 12 meetings will be at the varsity campus, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., while the Nov. 9 meeting is scheduled for the freshman campus, 4071 N. Oak Park Ave.
Plans call for the meetings to be held in-person, but virtual options for viewing the meetings also will be be available.
Davila was elected as the new chair, replacing Kathy Fern, who retired from the council because her child graduated last month from Taft. Also new to the LSC are Leick and Scalera, replacing Krissy Estrada and Monica Moore, whose children also graduated.
Leick was chosen as the secretary, and Bernacchi as vice chair.