Janesville32.8°

Pledge protest planned

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Stacy Vogel
April 23, 2008
— As a veteran, Al Decker said he can’t let slide an incident in which students said the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish at Edgerton High School last month.

Decker will bring six to eight veterans from the VFW and American Legion to Monday’s school board meeting to protest the incident, the Edgerton resident and Army veteran said.


“It’s disrespectful and it’s unpatriotic,” Decker said. “The pledge was designed here in the United States, and it was designed in English, and I believe that’s the way it should be.”


Edgerton High School broadcasts the pledge over the intercom every day, Principal Jim Halberg said. On March 11, he allowed a Spanish class to say the pledge in Spanish.


The decision angered some students and parents.


Todd Dix, a veteran and father of an Edgerton High School senior, told The Janesville Gazette at the time that the action made him sick to his stomach.


But Dix and Halberg have since come to an understanding, they said. Halberg agreed if the school says the pledge in Spanish in the future, it will make sure to include an English version before or after. Dix said he was satisfied with the response.


But Decker and other veterans aren’t satisfied, Decker said.


Veterans put more emphasis on respecting the flag, the pledge and other symbols of the nation than civilians do, he said.


“(Saying the pledge in Spanish) kind of goes against those who have supported their country and have fought for their country and things like that, especially those who have given the ultimate sacrifice,” Decker said.


Superintendent Norm Fjelstad disagreed, noting in a written statement that 110,000 Spanish-speaking troops are serving in the military and 400 have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.


He wrote that his father couldn’t speak English until third grade and always said the pledge in Norwegian at school, yet he’s proud of his father’s patriotism.


Fjelstad said he has been bombarded by calls from residents and even two radio stations since the incident. People have criticized him while in line to vote and while grocery shopping at Piggly Wiggly, suggesting he fire the teacher or principal who allowed the students to say the pledge in Spanish, he said.


“I am told by several they will be asking for the Edgerton School Board to replace me with an American superintendent and not one that allows students to say the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish,” he wrote.


The veterans won’t ask for anyone to be fired at Monday’s meeting, but they would like a public apology, Decker said.


Fjelstad said the school board has the authority to decide if schools can say the pledge in Spanish, but he defended the high school’s action in his statement.


“A country that prides itself in rights and responsibilities, including the freedom of speech, should never mandate that a pledge or even the national anthem be just one language,” he wrote.


“This is an issue that can only divide our community and sends the wrong message to our students.”


IF YOU GO

What: Edgerton School Board meeting.


When: 7 p.m. Monday.


Where: School district office, 200 Elm High Drive, Edgerton.



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