A Senate committee unanimously approved a bill Wednesday morning that would require the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited each morning classroom-by-classroom rather than over a school loudspeaker.
Under current state law, all public elementary schools must have students recite the pledge at the beginning of each day, and secondary schools at least once a week. SB223 would require the pledge to be recited in the classroom, with students taking turns in their classes leading it. It would also require secondary schools to do the pledge each day.
"I think we need to create an environment where the Pledge of Allegiance is more meaningful and creates an opportunity for conversations about the greatness of our country," said bill sponsor Sen. Aaron Osmond, R-South Jordan. "I think that every child should have the opportunity to lead the Pledge of Allegiance and reinforce their civic sense of duty and civic sense of gratitude for the many blessings we enjoy in this country."
Osmond said he was inspired to run the bill after visiting a number of schools and observing classes. He said he noticed during those visits that in some classrooms, especially those where many students were still learning English, students seemed to observe the pledge only by standing and not reciting it. He also said he thinks high school students are missing out on an opportunity to reflect on the "greatness of the country we're in" when they're only required to recite the pledge once a week.
Osmond's bill, however, would still allow individual students not to participate if they so chose.
Lawmakers in the Senate Education Committee expressed agreement with the bill Wednesday, with Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, even suggesting that perhaps it could somehow be amended to emphasize the importance of teaching "respect for individual conscience" in cases where students choose not to recite the pledge because of religious or other objections. He suggested, for example, that individual students could take turns staying silent during the pledge so "anyone who is doing it out of conscience may not feel alone."
"If this nation means anything, we also have to teach respect for that," Stephenson said.
Stephenson also noted that one of the most passionate recitations of the pledge he's seen occurred at the American Preparatory Academy School for New Americans charter school.
The committee did not change Osmond's bill to include those suggestions Wednesday, but Osmond said he's open to exploring ways to emphasize respect for those who choose to abstain.
The bill now moves to the Senate floor.