Dust off the flags, teachers: The Pledge of Allegiance likely will become a required part of the school day sometime this school year.
The Nebraska Board of Education on Friday unanimously approved a change to Rule 10, which governs all schools and districts. Districts must comply with Rule 10 to be accredited by the state and receive state funds.
Board President Jim Scheer acknowledged opponents who argue that it should be left a local decision, but said the issue is important enough to be required by the state, as are issues such as graduation requirements and academic standards.
“I understand no district likes to be told what to do,” he said. “But I do think the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance on a daily basis falls within that purview.”
Both state board candidates -- Bob Van Valkenburg and Lillie Larsen -- have endorsed the rule change.
Educators have said many classes already say the pledge daily. The rule change will require that all students in kindergarten through 12th grade recite the pledge daily in the presence of a flag, though students can choose to stand or sit silently as long as they respect those who wish to participate.
Van Valkenburg suggested an amendment Friday that would require flags be in every classroom and that all students stand during the recitation even if they choose not to say the pledge. He also wanted those who choose not to recite the pledge to write a 50-word essay on what it means to be an American.
Richard Zierke, a Lincoln businessman who first suggested passing a law requiring recitation of the pledge, thanked the board before the vote and said he liked Van Valkenburg’s suggestion that all students be required to stand.
Board member Bob Evnen said the rule -- including the provision that allows students to sit out and not recite the pledge -- was crafted to comply with the U.S. Constitution.
Zierke, an ex-Marine, was doing research one day when he learned that Nebraska and six other states, the District of Columbia and two territories do not have a law that addresses the pledge. He went to state Sen. Tony Fulton, who introduced legislation, which died in committee. State education board Vice President Mark Quandahl suggested the rule change.
The attorney general’s office and the governor still must approve the change, but assuming they give their nod of approval, the requirement should become effective sometime this school year.
In other action Friday, the state board approved a system that will use statewide reading, math, science and writing scores, along with the improvement in those scores and individual student performance, to gauge how well schools and districts are doing. High school graduation rates also will be considered.