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Letter: Let's clear up any confusion over the Fargo School Board's recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance

Telford shares the timeline of the Fargo School Board's decision to recite the Pledge of Allegiance at its meetings.

Lyn Telford.jpeg
Lyn Telford.
Submitted photo
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The history of the Pledge of Allegiance’s role in Fargo School Board meetings is a short one, although you would never know it following the media and social media frenzy that followed the vote in early August.

Timeline of events as a reminder to the public:

1999 (at least) to January 2022 – The pledge was not recited before the start of Fargo School Board meetings. It had never once been an agenda item, meaning no board member had made a motion to recite it. During this timeframe, it seems as though no one from the public seemed to notice or care about the lack of Pledge of Allegiance recital.

February 2022 – Board member and soon-to-be incumbent candidate David Paulson makes a motion for the board to start reciting the pledge at the beginning of the meetings. The motion dies due to lack of a second. (Note – six board members present at the meeting had the opportunity to second and did not). The topic was routed to the governance committee.

March 2022 – Governance committee reached consensus for the topic to be brought as an agenda item to the March 22, 2022, meeting. After several iterations and motions, the motion passed.

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April 2022 – The Board of Education begins reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of board meetings.

June 2022 – New members elected to the board.

August 2022 – The board votes on rescinding the 4-month-old tradition of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before school board meetings. Misleading headlines leave people (most of whom do not live in the Fargo school district, if even the tri-state area) to believe the school board is removing the Pledge of Allegiance from classrooms. Disinformation spreads like wildfire due to irresponsible reporting, sharing, and fueling. Death threats are made against school board members which lead members to file police reports. The first person of color elected to public office in Fargo receives racist and threatening messages. An ominous letter stating “better off dead than red” is left posted on the door of the district’s main office building, a messaging referencing a Cold War slogan indicating death from nuclear war was preferred over communist rule. The board holds a special meeting in attempt to get back to the business that matters: students and staff.

Related content
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.

To recap the special meeting:

- Tracie Newman reported that Fargo Public Schools phone lines are so bogged down with calls (mostly of the threatening nature) that the lines have to be shut down for two days, during a time in which parents were trying to get students registered for school.

- Greg Clark calculated that 19% of his messages were from Fargo residents. More than 4 of every 5 messages came from people he was not elected to represent. Note, 43% were in support of the board’s decision. The majority of messages from Fargo residents were civil. He was threatened with violence and had to file a police report.

- Nyamal Dei spoke about what it is to be a patriot, someone who loves her country. She more eloquently represented a patriot than any coward who left her those hateful messages.

- Melissa Burkland, Jim Johnson, Seth Holden, and Katie Christianson all delivered sincere and logical statements regarding their experiences.

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Did I miss anything? Watch the recap of the meeting here .

The Pledge of Allegiance is a collection of words, much like a prayer. “One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Reciting words aloud yet acting in a contradictory manner is hypocrisy. If you are going to talk the talk, walk the walk. Those who said that the hateful comments “aren’t right, but….” are just as guilty of hypocrisy. It is shameful.

Thank you to those who have reached out to the board in support, but I encourage you to speak your support out loud. We must confront hate with reason and we must do it with voices just as loud as the hatred and hypocrisy. Fear is a strong motivator; it leads people to react inappropriately. But the reactions get attention. Confidence and wisdom are often silent, but today, our community needs to hear your voices.

To each of the Fargo School Board members and Fargo School District administration and staff, on behalf of our community, I offer my sincerest regrets for all that you have experienced in the last month. I commend you for dealing with this situation as professionally as you have and for attempting to get back to your priority, which is our students and staff.

Lyn Telford lives in Fargo.

This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.

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