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Cobb school video equating honor with standing for pledge of allegiance spurs concern

At a Cobb County middle school Wednesday, a video designed to illustrate the concept of honor focused on a child who didn’t rise for the pledge of allegiance with her class. Eventually, the student comes to see that standing for the pledge honors the Armed Forces and thus rises with the class.

Several people contacted me about the video that was shown at Hightower Trail Middle School. They felt it disparaged and discredited the athletes, most of whom are African-American, who are kneeling during the pledge or the national anthem in an effort to bring attention to racism and police shootings of unarmed black citizens.

The issue is at the forefront in Cobb County because of student protests Monday and today at Kennesaw State University where five cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem three weeks ago.  The squad was then banished from the field during the anthem, a controversial decision now being reviewed by the Board of Regents.

As a Hightower Trail parent explained:

The video showed a class with kids that were doing the Pledge of Allegiance. One kid didn't stand, so later the other kids asked why she didn't stand? They, of course, explained what patriotism was. Three days later, the kid stands for the pledge.

I think the timing is questionable and the brainwashing is obvious. The video clearly was created to persuade, ostracize, and pressure students into standing for the flag and reciting the pledge. Now many students are afraid if they do not recite or stand for the flag at school, they will be punished or shamed. In light of current events, the timing of the video could not be any worse. What happened to the first amendment?

Created by students under the supervision of a teacher, the video could have chosen another way to illustrate honor, said the parent, explaining, “This video definitely promotes standing with patriotism and those who do not stand are unpatriotic. Peer pressure at its best."

Another parent suggested the video could have highlighted honor through sacrifice, such as students giving up their Saturdays to rake the yards of the elderly or clean a local park.

One Cobb resident explained, “Given other issues in Cobb County School District -- Confederate dress-up day  --  it's infuriating they would dismiss the very real reasons why players are kneeling. Anyway, I think CCSD needs to educate their schools about students’ right not to stand.”

Principal Laura Montgomery heard the concerns and sent out an email to parents:

On the morning of October 18, 2017, a student-created video was shown on our Husky News Network to explain the chosen Character Education word – honor. For several years, the videos have been a favored activity of our homerooms, and a way for all children to be a part of the morning announcements

In this video, the students decided to use a scenario involving the Pledge of Allegiance with a student remaining seated. Following the explanation of the word honor, the video demonstrated how an individual could show honor by standing for the pledge. The next scene showed the previously seated young lady standing for the pledge and ended with a picture which paid tribute to our armed forces.

While the video was seen by a small number of faculty members, it was not viewed by an administrator prior to airing. Moving forward, all videos will be previewed by an administrator and we have engaged the faculty in a discussion about guiding children away from controversial topics when they are planning and filming explanations of the Character Education word.

I want you to know that Hightower Trail is an amazing school and we honor all students. One of our goals is to teach respect for every individual. I will be talking to the students on the Husky News Network on Friday morning and will emphasize to all of our students that one of the amazing qualities of our country is one’s right to respectfully hold one’s own opinion.

Many people believe that failing to stand for the pledge of allegiance or the national anthem signifies hatred of America. They cannot accept you can be a loyal American and still choose to kneel or sit. I was raised in a household that flew the flag and only bought American cars. My mother was the daughter of immigrants and became a fierce “love it or leave it” patriot. But that’s because she felt America welcomed and supported her. For those who feel America does not love or support them, it is not as simple.

Those condemning the athletes and cheerleaders kneeling to protest racism and police shootings ought to remember that angry mobs attacked the Freedom Riders integrating buses and the North Carolina college students who attempted to sit at white-only lunch counters. In polls in the 1960s, the majority of white Americans didn't support these civil rights activists even though we recognize them now as heroes.

There is a wide racial divide in how Americans regard the silent protests of athletes. Last year, a Quinnipiac University Poll found white Americans disapproved of the protests by a margin of 63 percent to 30 percent. But black Americans approved 74 percent to 17 percent.

Perhaps, the next concept for the students and the rest of us to tackle should be empathy.



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.