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Denogean: Let’s pledge a quick end to allegiance flap

“Miss Godfrey: I say how would you like to have 100 Nazis, klanners, skins and Aryan Nation members marching and protesting in front of your school? I personally find the idea exhilarating. Nothing makes me happier than exposing some a–hole for being an illegal minority, anti-American, commie puke.”

That’s the sound of another blast in the culture wars.

A local principal and the Tucson Unified School District have received about 450 phone calls and e-mails – including the one above – and the threat of a lawsuit over a teacher’s practice of having her students recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.

Mind you, second-graders in Anne Lee’s class at Gale Elementary School say the pledge first in English and finish with the pledge in American Sign Language. But to some xenophobic meddlers, mostly from outside Tucson and Arizona, that doesn’t matter.

This controversy started two weeks ago when Tucsonan Lance Altherr, a Minuteman, found out his 8-year-old son was reciting the pledge in Spanish in Lee’s class every morning.

Altherr, who didn’t return my phone calls, wrote in a post for the Americans for Legal Immigration Web site that he was “outraged.”

He wrote that he told Lee “when you pledge allegiance to this country, you do it in English, and not a foreign language. I told her it was a disgrace to the men and women who are fighting or have fought for this country and this flag.”

Lee, a teacher for 22 years, disagreed and said it was a great way to teach Spanish to the students. Principal Paula Godfrey told Altherr his son didn’t have to participate or could change classrooms.

Altherr chose to have his son moved. But that wasn’t good enough. Altherr didn’t want any Gale student saying the pledge in a foreign language.

He brought the matter to the attention of the school board. TUSD board president Alex Rodriguez said in an interview that he told Altherr this was an issue to be decided at the school level by a site council.

In his online posting, Altherr provided contact information for Godfrey and the TUSD board and implored those who share his thinking to let Tucson educators know this needs to change immediately.

And they have – 450 outsiders telling Tucsonans how we should run our schools.

No other parent from Gale has complained about Lee’s class, said TUSD spokeswoman Chyrl Hill Lander. Lander said Lee is fluent in Spanish and has taught the pledge this way for many years to broaden her student’s horizons.

Some readers might incorrectly assume Lee adopted the practice to accommodate Spanish-speaking students in her class. Lander said Gale, on Tucson’s far East Side, has few Hispanic students and Lee’s class has none.

Lee’s method is, pure and simple, an educational exercise to introduce children to Spanish and sign language. Somehow that seems appropriate in a community with a sizable Hispanic population located 60 miles from the border.

Rodriguez, a former military officer and the American son of Mexican-born parents, said his background left him with a special appreciation for the pledge. He said he sees nothing disrespectful about Lee’s class reciting it in three languages.

He also expressed some frustration at this distraction from more pressing matters.

“While I have deep respect for the sentiments that the Pledge of Allegiance invokes, I have a $20 million deficit, school closures, 74 audit recommendations and a transition of superintendents to stay focused on.”

Unfortunately, this matter doesn’t appear to be headed for the quick death it deserves.

Altherr caught the attention of ProEnglish, a group that advocates for English as the nation’s official language.

ProEnglish is writing a letter to the state attorney general and plans a lawsuit if TUSD won’t back down. Reciting the pledge in Spanish in a classroom violates Arizona law that declares English the state’s official language, the group claims.

Rodriguez said TUSD’s legal department and the state Department of Education have approved the practice.

The law has many exceptions to the requirement that all official government actions shall be conducted in English. One is the use of foreign language to teach or encourage the learning of a second language.

K.C. McAlpin, executive director of ProEnglish, said his group will argue that swearing allegiance is a political act, not an educational act.

Interesting. An argument like that – which implies we’re forcing a political view on children – could knock the pledge out of classrooms altogether.

Anne T. Denogean can be reached at adenogean@tucsoncitizen.com and at 573-4582. Her columns run Tuesdays and Fridays.


Online Poll: Do you object to the Pledge of Allegiance being said in Spanish?
Yes: 74%
No: 22%
I don't know or don't care: 3%
523 users voted



I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

Yo prometo lealtad a la bandera de los estados Unidos de America, y a la Republica que representa, una Nacion bajo Dios, entera, con libertad y justicia para todos.

Ich gelobe Treue auf die Fahne der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika, auf die Republik, die eine Nation unter Gott ist, vereinigt durch Freiheit und Gerechtigkeit fur alle.

J´engage ma fidelité au drapeau des États-Unis d´Amérique et à la République qu’il répresente, une nation sous Dieu, indivisible, avec liberté et justice pour tous.

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