I am writing in response to the article by Karina Andrew in the Sept. 1 issue of your paper titled “Audience interrupts school board meeting with Pledge of Allegiance.”
Ms. Andrew reports that, “It is unclear whether the demonstration had been planned in advance, although Larry Christensen from Freeland, said the recitation was delivered impromptu.” If Mr. Christensen attended the previous two in-person board meetings on July 28 and Aug. 11 that I attended, he would have witnessed a group of individuals attempting the same action.
On July 28, a number of individuals refused to wear masks and so were not allowed into the South Whidbey School Board meeting room. In response, they gathered outside looking in through open windows and door. As Brooke Willeford, the board chair, was about to call the meeting to order, the folks outside and some inside the room very loudly shouted the Pledge of Allegiance.
It was disruptive and felt aggressive rather than patriotic. On Aug. 11, just after the school board chair called the meeting to order, a woman in the audience asked to have the pledge recited. Mr. Willeford stated that the pledge was not on the meeting agenda and refused the request, moving to the first agenda item. In this context, the disruption of reciting the pledge at the Aug. 25 meeting does not appear to be impromptu based on behavior at previous school board meetings.
The pledge belongs to all Americans and should not be used as an aggressive tool signaling some kind of divisive victory. No one can make me stand and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I do so because I am an American citizen who loves this country. In my 33 years teaching high school science, I stood with my students every morning and recited the pledge. Especially important in my classroom was the closing phrase, “With liberty and justice for all.” That aspiration and inclusivity is the culture I support in the education of South Whidbey’s children.
These disruptive assaults on the orderly conduct of school boards are part of the national agenda of the radicalized right. Citizens of South Whidbey need to know what the board, the superintendent, faculty and students are facing as they enter the school year. And we need to support the board to carry on the business of providing the best education for the students, diverse as that population is, and not be derailed into the behaviors of a minority.