After much hand-wringing, Fargo School Board OKs Pledge of Allegiance

If there’s anywhere in the country you’d expect the Pledge of Allegiance to be a slam dunk, it’s Fargo. But the hand-wringing and heated rhetoric over whether the pledge should be recited at future Fargo Board of Education meetings at times sounded more like what you’d expect in Berkley or Madison.

Students in Fargo schools have long begun the academic day by reciting the age-old pledge before hitting the books. But when it came down to the adults on the school board taking the patriotic pledge, Forum News noted the issue became complicated.

“Will this act cause the board to do better work? I would answer no,” said [school board member Seth] Holden. “I would argue that our work might not get better because of the divisiveness this could create because of not every person not wanting to partake in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Several board members took a precautionary stance with some words in the Pledge of Allegiance, including “under God” and, for Holden, “not every single person in this country has liberty and justice,” he said.

Board member David Paulson introduced the motion after his kindergarten grandson proudly recited it to him recently after class.

“My feeling is that being an American citizen you should be loyal and patriotic toward your country, defend the land and take pride in what the country stands for,” Paulson told the board. “I think it would be a great honor to our nation if we started to show our pride and loyalty to the United States by simply starting each of our board meetings with the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Paulson pointed out the pledge is standard practice at schools across the U.S., Fargo City Commission and other government meetings, sessions of Congress, and at the swearing-in of new citizens. And an instructor with the school district’s Air Force Junior ROTC offered his services.

“I would volunteer to bring one of my color guards over here for your next meeting to do your first Pledge of Allegiance,” said Col. Steven Muhs. “So my cadets would be here in uniform with the flags, kind of an official special ceremony to make it happen. I think it’s a great idea.”

But the school board chair admitted she was conflicted over whether some of the pledge’s wording could be “restrictive.” She wasn’t the only one to suddenly express reservations over whether she could commit to taking the pledge.

“The words ‘under God’ have concern for me,” board chair Rebecca Knutson said. “Not me personally but knowing individuals that don’t feel the same way I feel. So I’m trying to figure out where to go with this.”

“I’m struggling. I’ll be honest, I did not think I would be,” board member Nikki Gullickson said. “But it’s got me thinking in a whole different direction.”

Yet the potential fallout from rejecting the pledge that the board of education requires students to say also hung in the air. Ultimately, members voted 6-2 to start reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at their next meeting.

“I think we’re making this more difficult than we need to,” said board member Robin Nelson. “If somebody wants to stand up and not say ‘under God’ or sit down, I think that’s their choice…It would be really hard not to vote for this motion.”