Pledge protest moot point

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

Any protest of a proposed state rule change allowing public school students to choose not to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag is pointless because legal precedence permitting such a option has existed for decades, the Portales Municipal Schools Board of Education president said at the board meeting Monday.

State Rep. Dennis Roch, R-Dist. 67, has sent out a letter asking all school boards and local governments to pass a resolution opposing a proposed change in state Public Education Department rules. The change would specify that students would be allowed to opt out of saying the pledge without punishment.

During the school board meeting in the district administration building, Alan Garrett produced at U.S. Supreme Court case from 1943, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, in which the court ruled that public school students could not be forced to say the pledge.

“Nothing that any school board or city council is going to do is going to change anything,” Garrett said after the meeting.

Only a Constitutional amendment or the Supreme Court reversing its decision would overturn the legal precedent, he said.

The board couldn’t take action related to Roch’s letter because it wasn’t on the agenda, and members expressed no desire to do so later.

On other matters, the board heard reports on special education services and federal student academic assistance programs.

Retiring Special Student Services Director Terry Warnica said the district had 438 disabled students last school year.

“Through the years, you can see we stayed fairly consistent,” she said of the number.

However, the district had a few less disabled students last year because of intervention when children were younger, she said.

Also, that year, 43 special education students moved to regular education.

Although special education students aren’t proficient in math and reading on standardized tests, 2008-2009 short-cycle assessment scores show improvement in math, reading and language usage for second through 11th graders in special education, Warnica said.

Retiring Federal Programs Director Trina Lujan said showed data indicating that students in the Title I program, which provides extra help with reading, and the bilingual program were improving academically. More students were meeting standards and moving away from the lowest tier of scores, according to the data.

In other business:

• Superintendent Randy Fowler showed the Region V Board Attendance Award the school board received for going to professional development events.

• The board discussed criteria for breaking ties for valedictorian and salutatorian.

• The board approved a cooperative agreement with the state Department of Transportation to improve the parking lot and bus lane at Valencia Elementary School.

Breakout:

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette decision:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0319_0624_ZO.html