Fargo School Board rescinds motion, will no longer recite Pledge of Allegiance at meetings
The Fargo School Board voted 7-2 in favor of rescinding a previous approved motion to begin their bi-weekly meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The board ruled that the Pledge of Allegiance didn't align with the Fargo Public School District's diversity code.
FARGO — After passing a motion on March 22 to begin each Fargo School Board meeting by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, the board has rescinded the motion, voting in favor of removing it.
In a 7-2 decision Tuesday, Aug. 9, the board voted in favor of removing the verse that has been a part of every school board meeting since April 12.
Board members Nikkie Gullickson and Robin Nelson voted in favor of keeping the Pledge of Allegiance at its bi-weekly meetings.
Board member Seth Holden asked the Governance Committee during its July 28 meeting that a removal of the previously passed motion, which was proposed by former board member David Paulson , should be voted on. The board agreed to put it on the agenda.
Holden said the Pledge of Allegiance didn't align with the school's diversity, equity and inclusion values.
The problem that Holden saw in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance came down to two words.
"Given that the word 'God' in the text of the Pledge of Allegiance is capitalized," Holden said. "The text is clearly referring to the Judeo-Christian god and therefore, it does not include any other face such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, all of which are practiced by our staff and students at FPS."
Even Atheists and Agnostics are excluded from the pledge, Holden added, saying it is a "non-inclusionary act".
Holden admitted he's not trying to get rid of the Pledge of Allegiance, but that it couldn't possibly fit in with the school district's principles of inclusion.
The school's website states, "Education is better where schools are composed of students, teachers, and families drawn from diverse socio-economic backgrounds, cultures, "races"/ethnicities, religions, and sexual orientations."
Board member Nyamal Dei came to the U.S. at the age of 10 and has family members that are serving in the military. She said we all have connections to the country, but it's filled with people from all walks of life and that that is most important.
"We live in a diverse community and that is what matters," Dei said.
Robin Nelson, a school board member, said that the new motion has created a lot of unwanted strife within the community, especially ahead of the new school year.
She believed the board should focus on the education of the students, but also should be awarded the right to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at the meetings.
Nelson wasn't the only one who thought the Pledge of Allegiance should be a part of the meeting.
Four members of the community came to plead their case to keep the pledge in the meetings, including Paulson, who said he originally made the motion after learning numerous city and local governments and school boards say the Pledge of Allegiance.
"We are misinterpreting the Pledge of Allegiance," Paulson said. "The pledge isn't a show of our patriotism, it's an affirmation of our commitment and our loyalty to the greater cause, and that greater cause is freedom."
School Board President Dr. Tracie Newman admitted she had no strong feelings either way, but it remained clear to her that this was a divisive issue. Newman said a division in the room was no way to start a school board meeting.
"I'm just not sure that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is a useful way to begin every one of our board meetings," Newman said. "I would much prefer that we open our meetings with a shared statement of purpose that would bring us all together to do the work of the board."
Board members Melissa Burkland and Katie Christensen agreed that the idea of reciting one of the school district's values would have a much greater impact on performing the board’s duty for the schools.
"Rather than starting our meeting on opposing sides of an issue, I'd rather us start by saying something unifying," Newman said.