A shortage of flags, questions about patriotism, and confusion among teachers have greeted a new state law requiring public school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom. Some teachers said they were unprepared for the requirement and not sure what directions to give students. For many, the biggest issue has been a shortage of flags.
"We've been pledging to the flag even without the flags," said Tom Humble, principal of Raleigh Charter High School, which started classes on Aug. 16.
Some teachers at the school put up pictures of the flag, and at least one downloaded an image onto his computer, he said. The school ordered flags and hardware, at a cost of $623, for each of the school's 30 classrooms.
Wakefield High in North Raleigh improvised during the first few days of school. Its students in classrooms without flags faced the front of the school, where the outdoor flag flies. Student leaders have since been leading the pledge on classroom television monitors, with an image of the flag in the background.
"We've ordered more flags," principal Steve Takacs said.
In Wake County, classroom flags are standard in new schools while other campuses can order them from the district.
Durham school administrators are looking for ways to meet the demand, while flags in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district are being provided by organizations such as the American Legion, PTAs and the schools.
Until this year, North Carolina law only encouraged schools to display flags in classrooms and recite the pledge.
The General Assembly approved the law this summer with one dissenting vote. It also directs schools to display the flags of the United States and North Carolina in all classrooms.
The new state law was spurred by an Apex High School student.
Schools across the country have made the pledge a priority in the years since the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. North Carolina is now one of 37 states that require schools to include the pledge in their daily schedules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The practice is optional in six other states.
Reciting the pledge has been common in elementary schools for years, either because of local policy or tradition.
The pledge's debut in high schools has prompted debate among students.
Most students in several Wake County high schools are participating, according to teachers and students.
"I view it as a civic duty," said Danny Trinh, 16, a junior at Enloe High School in Raleigh, which was still preparing to begin daily recitals. "Its a privilege to be a citizen of this country."
Other students say reciting the pledge daily will diminish the pledge's meaning rather than deepen a sense of citizenship.
"I'm as patriotic as the rest of us," said Nina Gandhi, 16, also a junior. "But it shouldn't be said every day for repetition. It should be valued for the meaning, not as a requirement."
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