Recently the Nebraska Board of Education unanimously voted to require all Nebraska public schools to set aside time each day for the Pledge of Allegiance. It will be voluntary for students and teachers but asks that those who do not participate must sit or stand quietly to respect those who do. The rule also states that failure to comply could cause schools to lose their accreditation.
Naturally, there are opponents to this rule. According to an article in Omaha World Herald, the ACLU finds this rule disappointing because it “could give school officials the wrong impression they can ‘bully’ students and teachers to participate in the pledge against their consciences or religious beliefs.”
The article continues to say the Nebraska ACLU chapter receives one to two complaints a year about the Pledge but after phone calls to the schools the issue is resolved. Recently an Omaha attorney, Kevin Stanosheck has petitioned a judge to strike down the rule saying that the Nebraska Board of Education lacks the authority to impose it on schools.
The problem here isn’t the mandate for the Pledge itself and seeing as the ACLU receives only one to two complaints a year about it, which is unlikely to change. The rule specifically states that participating in saying the Pledge is mandatory. If the ACLU has been able to resolve these issues with a quick phone call, then any future issues will most likely be similar to solve.
The true reason as to why this ruling is troubling and why Stanosheck has a valid reason to challenge the rule is that the Nebraska Board of Education has overstepped their power by creating such a harsh punishment for schools that refuse to comply.
According to Stanoshek, “If you have state agencies just going out and making whatever rules and laws they want, without the authority, who’s going to stop them?” Checks and balances are needed at every level of authority to government agencies from overstepping.
For a school to lose its accreditation would mean to close its doors completely. This would harm students more than help. As important as the Pledge of Allegiance is for morale and respect to this country, it is not worth losing schools over.
If the Nebraska Board of Education had only mandated that time be set aside for the Pledge of Allegiance with no added risk of losing accreditation, this rule would not be a problem. But the overstepping of power by a state agency blurs the line between holding on to the importance of a symbol of America and dictating that it is worth losing schools over.
There is nothing wrong with requiring schools to allot time for the Pledge of Allegiance. There is also nothing wrong with opting out of saying the Pledge. But when the Nebraska state legislature fails to pass a law requiring schools to say the Pledge of Allegiance, it should not be so easy for the Nebraska Board of Education.