View Full Version : "The whole thing is tearing our community apart ."

11-16-2008, 12:09 AM
Debate on Pledge of Allegiance in Vt. town

WOODBURY No one's sure when daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance fell by the wayside at Woodbury Elementary School.

But efforts to restore them have erupted into a bitter dispute in this tiny (pop. 810) Vermont town, with school officials blocking the exercise from classrooms amid concerns that it holds nonparticipating children up to scorn.

Supporters say the classroom is the place for it, and the disagreement has fueled an increasingly acrimonious debate.

"The whole thing is tearing our community apart," said Heather Lanphear, 39, the mother of a first-grade student.

Unlike other Pledge controversies, this one centers on how and where schoolchildren say it, not whether they should be allowed to.

In 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that schoolchildren can opt out of reciting the pledge for religious reasons.

Sixty-one years later, the court said a California father couldn't challenge the Pledge of Allegiance, reversing a lower-court decision saying teacher-led Pledge recitals in public schools were unconstitutional. That case involved an atheist who didn't want his third-grader to have to listen to the phrase "under God."

But it didn't rule on the constitutionality of compulsory recitation.

The brouhaha in the Vermont school began in September, when parent Ted Tedesco began circulating petitions calling for its return as a daily practice in the 19th-century schoolhouse, which has 55 children in grades kindergarten through six.