‘I’m not doing it as a way to seek attention…’
(Kaylee McGhee, Liberty Headlines) The San Francisco United School District’s Board of Education skipped the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of its meeting Tuesday night for the first time in its history, a deliberate omission ordered by the board’s new president.
Tuesday was newly elected Stevon Cook’s first meeting as president. He said he had been considering cutting the pledge since he won the election two weeks ago, but he only told a few board members he intended to follow through with that, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
When the meeting began, he asked people to stand and instead of reciting the pledge, he read a quote from poet Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give.”
None of the board members or citizens present said anything when Cook bypassed the pledge, the Chronicle said.
“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens,” he said the next morning. “This is how I plan to do that.”
Though the state’s education code requires schools to participate in a daily patriotic routine, district officials said this only applies to schools, not to public meetings.
“Although there is a requirement that schools conduct a pledge or similar activity, there is no such requirement for school boards,” said district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe.
The San Francisco school board has, for decades, recited the pledge directly after roll call. It never officially appeared on the agenda, but it was always the first order of business. Some board members chose not to participate in it, like Cook, but it was an unspoken rule of custom.
“We should stand for the pledge because those ideals are important to me,” Cook said. “To speak them is another thing.”
Cook said that to be inclusive, he plans to recite quotes from various Americans, including writer Toni Morrison, gay rights activist Harvey Milk and novelist James Baldwin.
“I’m not doing it as a way to seek attention,” he said. “I really think that these people are a great testament to our values and who we should aspire to be as Americans.”