An idea to celebrate national Foreign Language Week by reading the Pledge of Allegiance in Arabic has sparked controversy in an upstate New York town.
Students from Pine Bush High School said the morning announcements were followed by an Arabic reading of the pledge, which saw a number of catcalls and angry statements made by students throughout the school who felt the act was inappropriate.
The topic continued to be heatedly discussed throughout the day, with the conversation being moved to Twitter. Comments were made both by students who criticized the idea and those who supported it.
Superintendent Joan Carbone said the topic has "divided the school in half," calling the reading "something that was supposed to be good but turned out not to be."
Later in the week, high school Principal Aaron Hopmayer explained why the reading had been done to the entire school, apologizing to those students who took offense to the event. She went on to say that the pledge would only be spoken in English in the future.
The district apologized "to any students, staff or community members who found this activity disrespectful" and said the pledge reading was intended to "promote the fact that those who speak a language other than English still pledge to salute this great country."
However, the students who had criticized the move appear to have become even more offended by the apology. Complaints are beginning to reach Carbone from residents of the district who have lost family members in Afghanistan as well as from Jewish families who are also offended.
State Education Department regulations require that the pledge be spoken in English, although New York State itself does not have an official language.
Students on both sides of the issue took to Twitter to voice their feelings. Said one, "People who don't like PB should take a vacation. I hear the Middle East is nice this time a year?" Another student tweeted, "The pledge should always be said in English. They could've just said "Good Morning" in a different language each day." A student who supported the reading, senior Miranda Monroe, said she felt it was "wrong to discriminate – the whole thing is wrong."
The school previously faced criticism in 2013 when a number of Jewish parents sued the school in federal court, accusing the school of allowing anti-Semitic behavior to take place. Children testified that swastikas had been drawn on school grounds, including on the face of a seventh-grade girl who had been held down by two boys. Students were subjected to being called "Christ killer," "stupid Jew," and "disgusting Jew." While a few of the offenders received detention or counseling, others were not disciplined at all, reports Abigail Elise for The International Business Times.
Meanwhile, a debate is sparking over an American-themed dance at Lexington High School in Massachusetts. The "American Pride" dance was cancelled by administration, who claimed it excludes other nationalities.