Legislature(1999 - 2000)
05/05/1999 01:47 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
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.