Legislature(1999 - 2000)

05/05/1999 01:47 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
txt
                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
HB 192 - PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT announced that the first order of business is HOUSE                                                               
BILL NO. 192, "An Act relating to reciting the pledge of allegiance                                                             
by public school students."                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
Number 0097                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
RICHARD SCHMITZ, Legislative Secretary for Representative Jeannette                                                             
James, Alaska State Legislature, explained that HB 192 calls for                                                                
the recitation of the pledge of allegiance in public schools.                                                                   
Presently, there is no standard policy in Alaska.  Mr. Schmitz                                                                  
informed the committee that recitation of the pledge of allegiance                                                              
is required in Anchorage, somewhat required in Fairbanks, and not                                                               
required in Juneau.  In some cases, the pledge of allegiance is                                                                 
recited in the elementary schools while in others it is recited                                                                 
through the middle schools.  Mr. Schmitz stated, "The aim of HB 192                                                             
is to standardize the pledge of allegiance policies among the                                                                   
state's public school systems and to insure that the basic civic                                                                
function is held on a regular basis at all grade levels of Alaska's                                                             
public schools."  Upon research, the state of Washington was found                                                              
to have a basic pledge statute attached to its flag statute.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Number 0242                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether there is an exemption for                                                                 
extra-curricular activities such as sporting events.                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
MR. SCHMITZ pointed out that at most sports events the national                                                                 
anthem is preformed.  This would provide an opportunity for the                                                                 
pledge of allegiance in a classroom setting.  He envisioned that at                                                             
assemblies there would be a pledge, but at sporting events the                                                                  
national anthem is utilized which seems to take precedent over the                                                              
pledge of allegiance.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG noted that the bill refers to                                                                           
"interscholastic events" which he did not know if that was                                                                      
appropriate.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. SCHMITZ pointed out that the language - "if feasible" - is also                                                             
used which seems to leave room for common sense and judgement on                                                                
the part of school administrators.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT surmised then that the governing body is required if                                                              
feasible.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. SCHMITZ said that is correct.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG commented that he supported this and almost                                                             
signed on as a sponsor, but he was unsure as to the appropriateness                                                             
of the pledge of allegiance at all interscholastic events.  He                                                                  
indicated that although in some instances it may be feasible, it                                                                
may not be appropriate.                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MR. SCHMITZ stated that the bill's reference to interscholastic                                                                 
events could be left out of the bill without affecting its intent.                                                              
                                                                                                                                
Number 0464                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT inquired as to the who the language - "governing                                                                  
body" - was referring; the school districts or the local school                                                                 
boards or a combination thereof.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
MR. SCHMITZ noted that he is not an attorney.  He believed that the                                                             
drafter utilized the language in existing flag statute.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT indicated that he shared the chair's concern.                                                              
He believed that there is confusion regarding the practicalities of                                                             
feasibility and the passive ordinance.  He asked what the "Bellamy                                                              
Salute" is.                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. SCHMITZ noted that the "Bellamy Salute" was the original pledge                                                             
which was last changed in 1954.  There was discussion regarding how                                                             
the hand position of the pledge was changed after World War II.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES, Sponsor of HB 192, Alaska State Legislature,                                                              
illustrated the original salute.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT asked whether every child was required to                                                                  
recite the pledge of allegiance back then.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied no.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 0690                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT referred to page 1, line 7 which speaks of the                                                                    
"governing body".  To whom does that refer?                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that there is not a definition in law,                                                                
but she believed it would be the local school board which is the                                                                
governing body of the schools.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN inquired as to the possibility that the                                                                    
language of line 8 would require the pledge of allegiance to occur                                                              
in each class.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. SCHMITZ clarified that the language - "regularly" - was chosen                                                              
to preclude "daily", although that was the thought.  Leaving the                                                                
language open provides a bit more leeway to the governing school's                                                              
administration.  He indicated that as long as the pledge is done                                                                
weekly, then each school could determine the specifics.  The idea                                                               
is to do the pledge more than never.                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI referred to the language - "be held                                                                    
regularly in each classroom" - which she interpreted to mean in                                                                 
each classroom the pledge will be recited.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES clarified that the intent of that language was                                                             
to recite the pledge in kindergarten, first, second, third, fourth,                                                             
et cetera.  She said that she did not necessarily mean each                                                                     
classroom that the student was in, but rather that classroom for                                                                
each grade level.  Perhaps, the pledge should be done in the                                                                    
homeroom.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI noted that many schools do not have                                                                    
homerooms.                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 0903                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT surmised then that Representative James would like                                                                
for the pledge of allegiance to be recited at least once a day in                                                               
a classroom.  Thereafter, it could occur in a school assembly and                                                               
if feasible, at an interscholastic event.  Chairman Kott asked                                                                  
whether the pledge allegiance would be more apt to be conducted at                                                              
the beginning of the school day in order to avoid reciting the                                                                  
pledge at the beginning of every class.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES specified that her intent was to learn the                                                                 
pledge and recite it regularly.  There are children that do not                                                                 
know the pledge of allegiance which is the problem.  It is                                                                      
important to have a flag in each classroom.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG reiterated his belief that the reference to                                                             
interscholastic events should be removed.  He indicated that if the                                                             
bill were amended to provide the local governing body more leeway                                                               
to establish the specifics, some of these problems could be                                                                     
overcome.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that she did not have a problem with                                                                  
that.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG discussed allowing the local governing body                                                             
to tailor this to the specific needs and circumstances.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 1081                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI noted that the state of Georgia used the                                                               
following language:                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     "Each student in the public schools of this state shall                                                                    
     be afforded the opportunity to recite the pledge of                                                                        
     allegiance to the flag of the United States of America                                                                     
     during each school day."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI further noted that "during each school                                                                 
day" would not have to be utilized.  As Representative Rokeberg                                                                 
suggested then the local governing bodies would be allowed to                                                                   
specify when, where, and how.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stressed that she did not mean to insist that                                                              
the pledge be recited every school day, but only as a regular                                                                   
program.  She noted the need for the language to allow those who do                                                             
not want to recite the pledge to be able to maintain silence and                                                                
respect.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked whether Representative James adamantly                                                                      
supported the inclusion of the language, "in each classroom, at                                                                 
school assemblies, and, if feasible, at interscholastic events."                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied no.  She said that the language -                                                                  
"such as" - could be inserted.  However, she indicated that she                                                                 
liked listing those instances where the pledge could be done, but                                                               
she did not want to mandate it.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT suggested deleting line 8 and inserting language                                                                  
indicating that the governing body would determine the location,                                                                
time, et cetera.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that she did not have a problem with                                                                  
that.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT clarified, in response to Representative Croft, that                                                              
it would have to be clear that the governing body would have the                                                                
authority and flexibility to determine the location, time, et                                                                   
cetera.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 1295                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT commented that Chairman Kott's proposal is a                                                               
good idea.  He pointed out that the state of Montana's code is more                                                             
detailed and specifies, "(5) If a student or teacher declines to                                                                
participate in the recitation...a school district may not for                                                                   
evaluation purposes include any reference to the student's or                                                                   
teacher's not participating."                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated that simple is better.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN referred to line 7 and suggested deleting,                                                                 
"require that", and inserting, "afford all students the opportunity                                                             
to participate in an appropriate flag exercise to be held on a                                                                  
regular basis."                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES objected.  She did not believe that to be                                                                  
enough, it should be required.  She emphasized that is the portion                                                              
of the bill that should be kept.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1459                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG said, "I think, if I'm not mistaken, the                                                                
sponsor had in mind to the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner at                                                               
interscholastic events which is more common than saying the pledge.                                                             
So, I think, but that's not spoken to so I'm not sure we really                                                                 
need to have the pledge recited here, unless that's what the                                                                    
sponsor wants to make sure that's in the title and everything."                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that she wanted it in statute.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG recommended then that the committee should                                                              
consider a flag salute including the playing of the National                                                                    
Anthem.  He indicated that could be in lieu of the pledge which he                                                              
believed that to be appropriate.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES pointed out that the playing of the National                                                               
Anthem would not negate the need for a regularly scheduled flag                                                                 
salute.  The playing of the National Anthem does not teach the                                                                  
students the words to the pledge of allegiance.  Representative                                                                 
James said that she is embarrassed that there are children growing                                                              
up that do not know the pledge of allegiance.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG agreed with Representative James.                                                                       
Therefore, he suggested that the language refer only to the pledge                                                              
of allegiance and not "an appropriate flag exercise".                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT pointed out that the current language works                                                                
together or else the respectful silence language would have to be                                                               
addressed in both spots.  Representative Croft said that Chairman                                                               
Kott's earlier suggestion was appropriate.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
Number 1589                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT offered a conceptual amendment [Amendment 1] to                                                                   
delete line 8 and end line 7 with a period.  There being no                                                                     
objection, Amendment 1 was so adopted.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked whether it should be placed in statute and the                                                              
governing body provided the flexibility or without any language                                                                 
would the governing body be provided that flexibility.                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI interpreted it to mean that specific                                                                   
authority to the governing body is not necessary.  She believed                                                                 
that with the directive to "require that an appropriate flag                                                                    
exercise be held regularly", there is an underlying assumption that                                                             
someone where determine the specifics.  Therefore specifying that                                                               
the governing body has the authority to do certain things does not                                                              
move further down the road.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT explained that originally he felt the original                                                             
language was appropriate.  However, do we want to allow an                                                                      
individual to charge that the pledge is not be held regularly                                                                   
enough and then the judge would determine what is "appropriate" and                                                             
"regularly" or that the governing body would make that                                                                          
determination.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN stated with 50 different school districts,                                                                 
there would probably be 50 different interpretations of                                                                         
"regularly".  He indicated that the first to be litigated would                                                                 
result in the determination for everyone.  Representative Green                                                                 
said that it would be all over the map.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT agreed that would be the case without some direction                                                              
from the Department of Education.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GREEN inquired as to whether Representative James                                                                
wanted uniformity throughout the school districts.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied, "Not necessarily.  I think it is up                                                               
to each school board to make that determination as long as it is                                                                
part of--there is a regular occurrence of it, that it's part of the                                                             
school education system.  That's all I'm asking for."                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT asked whether Representative James would want                                                              
someone to have the right to go into court and say what they                                                                    
determined as "an appropriate flag exercise...regularly" or would                                                               
it be preferred to have the school board make the determination.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES noted that people cannot be stopped from going                                                             
to court, but if people do not like the choices of the school board                                                             
then they can complain and elect someone else.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT said that he believed the litigation could be avoided                                                             
if the language indicating that the governing body shall require an                                                             
appropriate flag exercise to be held regularly as determined by the                                                             
governing body.  Such language clarifies that the governing body                                                                
would make the decision.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT agreed.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that she did not have a problem with                                                                  
that.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG inquired as to how Representative James                                                                 
would feel about adding the language - "or National Anthem" - at                                                                
the end of line 12.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 1854                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT moved that the committee adopt the following                                                               
amendment [Amendment 2]:                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 7, before "."                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
          Insert, ",as determined by the governing body"                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, Amendment 2 was so adopted.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES stated that she understood the pledge and The                                                              
Star-Spangled Banner to be two different issues.  "The language in                                                              
the pledge says who we are.  The Star-Spangled Banner is the flag                                                               
living through war.  It's a totally different issue all together.                                                               
It's respect to the flag, but in a different issue.  What I'm                                                                   
interested for children to understand is not war, but is about our                                                              
daily living where we have this, 'one nation under God,                                                                         
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.'  Liberty and                                                                    
justice for all is extremely important and 'the republic for which                                                              
this flag stands', those are the two important parts of the pledge                                                              
of allegiance.  I think they are extremely important as a civic                                                                 
lesson, if nothing else."  Representative James did not have a                                                                  
problem with the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner as it is                                                                   
typical for interscholastic events, however, it does not take the                                                               
place of the pledge of allegiance.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG pointed out that he made that                                                                           
recommendation due to the use of the language, "an appropriate flag                                                             
exercise".  He stressed, "We are either talking about the pledge or                                                             
not."                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES commented that she wondered how long this has                                                              
been working in the state of Washington and if they have had these                                                              
problems.                                                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked whether Representative Rokeberg was concerned                                                               
with the language on line 7, "flag exercise" and would recommend                                                                
that language be replaced with "pledge of allegiance".                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG agreed.  He added that the current language                                                             
implies that there is something besides the pledge that would                                                                   
qualify as "an appropriate flag exercise".                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT suggested the language, "students recite the pledge                                                               
of allegiance on a regular basis as determined by a local body."                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA pointed out that the bill only speaks to                                                                
students who wish to remain silent.  Perhaps, the language "anyone"                                                             
could be utilized instead of "students", with regard to reciting                                                                
the pledge or remaining silent.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
Number 2102                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT clarified then that on line 7, the language would                                                                 
read, "The governing body shall require that 'the pledge of                                                                     
allegiance' be recited regularly."  He asked whether that would                                                                 
work.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES pointed out that the beginning of the bill                                                                 
refers to the United States and Alaska flags.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT did not foresee a lot of frivolous suing over                                                              
flag exercises.                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG explained that the original language                                                                    
referring to "interscholastic events" started his train of thought                                                              
regarding what an "appropriate flag exercise" would be.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked whether there would be any situation in which                                                               
the flag would be saluted without the flag.                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES interjected and stated that one is not                                                                     
supposed to salute the flag without it being present.  She further                                                              
pointed out that there are rules regarding flag exercises and the                                                               
handling of the flag.  Representative James emphasized the                                                                      
importance of teaching students in public schools in America the                                                                
pledge.  She acknowledged that those from different countries could                                                             
respect their own traditions as well as America's.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT agreed with the original intent for students to                                                                   
recite the pledge of allegiance.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT agreed that the recitation of the pledge is as                                                             
important as Representative James' remembrance of Jehovah's                                                                     
witnesses not participating in the pledge.  Both illustrate our                                                                 
freedom and is a good civic lesson.  He reiterated the need to                                                                  
refer to "anyone" and eluded to the need to not hold it against                                                                 
those who do not participate.                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 2397                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked whether Representative Croft was suggesting the                                                             
deletion of "Students" with "Any person".                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT replied yes.  He moved that the committee                                                                  
adopt Amendment 3 which reads as follows:                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
     Page 1, line 9                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
          Delete "Students"                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
          Insert "Any person"                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
There being no objection, Amendment 3 was so adopted.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT suggested at the end of line 12 inserting the                                                                     
following language:                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     "If a person declines to participate in the recitation a                                                                   
     school district may not for evaluation purposes include                                                                    
     any reference to the student's or teacher's not                                                                            
     participating."                                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES said that she did not have a problem with                                                                  
that.                                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
TAPE 99-54, SIDE B                                                                                                              
Number 0001                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT informed the committee that his suggested language                                                                
would be Amendment 4.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI asked whether Amendment 4 should refer to                                                              
the school district or the governing body.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT said if the governing body is a local entity, as is                                                               
the case in Anchorage, Chairman Kott did not think it would have                                                                
the responsibility.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0027                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether an REAA [Rural Education                                                                  
Attendance Area] is a school district.                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied yes.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CROFT mentioned that an REAA is a school district                                                                
under statute.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG asked whether a single-site school is a                                                                 
school district.                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES replied yes.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE KERTTULA pointed out that the language in Amendment                                                              
4 could be broadened rather than specifying "a student or teacher".                                                             
She suggested that the language, "If a person declines to                                                                       
participate that shall not be used for any purpose."                                                                            
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE JAMES suggested that Chairman Kott's original                                                                    
language would be appropriate if "a student or teacher" is deleted                                                              
and the language - "a person" - is inserted.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
Discussion ensued regarding the best language to be utilize in                                                                  
Amendment 4.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
The committee stood at-ease from 2:37 p.m. to 2:40 p.m.                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
Number 155                                                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT clarified that conceptual Amendment 4 reads as                                                                    
follows:                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     "A person may decline to participate.  Such action shall                                                                   
     not be used for evaluation on any other purpose."                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT asked whether there was any objection.  There being                                                               
none, Amendment 4 was so adopted.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI noted that her children attend a public                                                                
school which is a Spanish emersion school.  Every morning the                                                                   
pledge is recited, however some mornings the pledge is recited in                                                               
Spanish.  Would that be a problem?                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG commented that a law addresses that.                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE MURKOWSKI said that it was food for thought.  She                                                                
inquired as to whether it made a difference if the pledge was                                                                   
recited in another language.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIRMAN KOTT said that he believed the courts would find that the                                                              
intent of HB 192 was met if the pledge is recited in Spanish.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 0280                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE ROKEBERG moved to report HB 192, as amended, out of                                                              
the committee with individual recommendations and the accompanying                                                              
zero fiscal note(s).  There being no objection, CSHB 192(JUD) was                                                               
so moved from the House Judiciary Standing Committee.                                                                           

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