To pledge or not to pledge

It’s a school policy that nearly every American student is familiar with, but shouldn’t follow blindly: At the end of the morning announcements, the person on the intercom asks everyone to rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.

After a complex series of events in late February between a student, her high school’s administration and Maine state law, it is now required to say the Pledge at South Portland High School.

The school’s associated student body executives received harsh criticism from their community after ending the Pledge portion of the announcements with “If you’d like to.”

It’s about time that students are given an option to recite the pledge. There is nothing wrong with the students giving their peers verbal support of their freedom of whether to speak or not to speak.

I watched my classmates stand up and say it like robots every day, from elementary through high school, never once questioning their inclusion.

Lily SanGiovanni, the South Portland senior class president who initiated the controversy, noticed that some teachers made students feel uncomfortable if they chose not to participate in the pledge, according to the Bangor Daily News.

This is another issue in and of itself. Making students feel victimized and excluded for not saying the Pledge is a kind of compelled speech act. Another way to discuss issues of freedom of speech is to describe it as what to say or what not to say, in the words of IT Wiki Law. Compelled speech is a method of manipulating and controlling speech. By this line of reasoning, this high school’s administration is infringing on its students’ first amendment rights.

America prides itself on freedom. A student should never feel forced to stand and pledge allegiance to anything if they don’t want to.

The most astounding part of the story is the amount of backlash from the community and the remarks therein.

Student vice president Morrigan Turner told the local paper that some community members told them to leave America and go to Syria or Russia, implying that they are un-patriotic Americans.

But SanGiovanni herself told WCSH News that “We are not doing this because we hate America or anything. We are really doing this because we understand there are people who choose to say the Pledge and it means a lot to them and for others it doesn’t.”

For those who choose to say the Pledge of Allegiance, they should recite it as their choice and with passion.

For the students who choose not to say the pledge, they should be allowed to feel comfortable knowing that they are not being judged or discriminated against for opting out of something they do not agree with.

As a national community, we should be supportive of free thinking. Freedom is an integral part of what makes the United States strong, and it represents what we stand for.

Freedom should apply to places of education. Let the students make their own decisions.

Sadly, in the end, South Portland High School told SanGiovanni to remove the phrase “if you’d like to” from the morning announcements.

I do not want this to discourage students from exercising their freedoms. Even though SanGiovanni’s actions were short-lived, she helped spread awareness about students’ rights.

This is why students should be rallying: schools should not force people to say the pledge.