(WAMC) School administrators for a high school in the Hudson Valley are apologizing for having the Pledge of Allegiance recited in Arabic. Meanwhile, social media platforms are flooded with comments of both support and opposition.
The Pledge was read in Arabic at Pine Bush High School during Wednesday’s morning announcements, in honor of National Foreign Language Week. The pledge was met with catcalls and District Superintendent Joan Carbone tells the Times Herald-Record that she received complaints from residents who lost relatives in Afghanistan and from Jewish parents. Calls to Carbone and the high school principal were not returned. District officials did, however, post a statement on their web site, apologizing. The statement reads, quote, “To honor National Foreign Language week and in an effort to celebrate the many races, cultures and religions that make up this great country and our school district, the foreign language department planned many activities, including reading the Pledge of Allegiance and morning announcements in different languages this week. The intention was to promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country.
We sincerely apologize to any students, staff or community members who found this activity disrespectful. In our school district the Pledge of Allegiance will only be recited in English as recommended by the Commissioner of Education.” End quote.
A statement from New York State Education Department Spokesman Dennis Tompkins says that state regulation specifies the wording of the Pledge, not the language.
Ibrahim Hooper is a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a grassroots civil rights and advocacy group.
“I would ask what he would be apologizing for exactly. Was his apology directed at those who have spread anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bigotry with hostile comments about this Pledge of Allegiance?” says Hooper. “I mean, what could be more quintessentially American than offering the Pledge of Allegiance no matter what language it’s in.”
The Pine Bush Central School District covers seven townships in portions of Ulster, Sullivan, and Orange counties. Jeremiah Horrigan is a reporter for the Times Herald-Record, who first reported the story Wednesday afternoon. He believes a lot of sentiment surrounding the pledge is reminiscent of 2013, when a group of Jewish parents sued the district alleging chronic anti-Semitism. As for Wednesday’s Pledge in Arabic, Horrigan says there were plans to honor National Foreign Language Week by reciting the Pledge in other languages Monday and Tuesday.
“It was done in all innocence, I think. They were going to begin the week with a French student and a Japanese-speaking student,” says Horrigan. “And it just didn’t happen, it went to number three. And that’s when things went kerflooey.”
And part of things going, as Horrigan says, kerflooey, has been the opening of the floodgates on Twitter. There have been calls for and displays of American pride. Accompanying one of Horrigan’s stories is a photo taken Thursday morning of a student’s car with the words “We live in America Speak English” written on the back windshield. Horrigan says he spotted one other car with a similar sentiment. He says it is difficult to gauge whether there are more opponents or supporters.
“Hard to say, very hard to say. The school district superintendent said that the issue or the event had split the school down the middle,” Horrigan says. “But I’ve spoken most directly to people, to students who support the reading, who don’t see it as a problem. They feel very strongly, but that’s all I can say.”
The issue is spilling into a regularly scheduled meeting at the Pine Bush chapter of the American Legion this evening. Ted Kloczkowski is a member. He expects a large turnout and talk about the Pine Bush Pledge of Allegiance. Kloczkowski says there are ways to recognize diversity outside the Pledge.
“Anybody who comes here regardless what ethnicity or where they’re from, what part of the world they’re from, first thing they should do is learn the English language and then say the Pledge of Allegiance in English, Star Spangled Banner in English,” says Kloczkowski.
Andrew Zink is senior class president. He told the Times Herald-Record that when he was asked to allow the reading to take place in Arabic, he agreed, and said he knew there would be opposition. Zink also said he would do it again because it’s “the right thing to do.” He tweeted that the Pledge means the same no matter the language.
—Courtesy of WAMC