Thursday, December 06, 2012
There's been a policy change at Capital High School in Charleston, WVA concerning what's called its morning observance policy.
Mornings at Capital High formerly featured the Pledge of Allegiance and our national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner".
Principal Clinton Giles,pictured above, added a new wrinkle, the mandatory playing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing", long considered by many African-Americans to be 'the black national anthem'. He demanded that all students stand in respect for all three.
When some students objected to standing, feeling that making "Lift Every Voice and Sing" the equivalent to our national anthem was disrespectful,Principle Giles blew his top:
Kim Bailey is the mother of one student who chose not to stand. She said the song is considered the "African-American National Anthem" and it was disrespectful to make students stand for it.
Her son chose not to stand and was sent to the office several times because of his decision, she said. She also said Giles made statements over the loudspeaker about the situation that "ostracized" her son.
She was glad to learn late Wednesday that the policy would change but was still upset about the situation.
After an investigation by Mark Milam, assistant superintendent for Kanawha County high schools, and a conversation with Superintendent Ron Duerring, Giles decided to change the policy:
Giles said he was "completely and totally exonerated" following the investigation, but the school is adding the words "or sit" to its policy regarding student participation during the Pledge of Allegiance.
"It was determined that if I reinsert that language . . . it would put the whole issue to rest," Giles said Wednesday in a phone interview.
The policy will now read, "during the Pledge, nonparticipating students are expected to stand or sit silently and are not to engage in any disrupting or distracting activity."
Giles said no student was ever punished for not standing during any portion of the morning observances. He spoke about the situation at an assembly but said he did so only to give students the facts. He said the idea he belittled students is a lie.
"There has never been an announcement made for students to stand for the playing of the African American National Anthem at Capital High School. That has never happened, won't happen," Giles said.
Giles apparently isn't saying why a number students were sent to the office for not standing respectfully during the playing of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" if it wasn't policy and his denial that he never made demeaning comments about children who wouldn't stand is contradicted by a number of students and parents.
The district authorities originally weren't going to touch this one, and ignored letters from parents. What finally brought it to a head was a letter from a parent to Kanawha County Board of Education President Pete Thaw, who demanded the district superintendent look into it and take action.
"I just want to have a class. Why are we doing this? Why are we interfering with our business? Our business is to educate children," Thaw said Wednesday.
Ah, but they're being educated.Trust me on that.
After the fit hit the Shan, Giles reportedly threw a mini-tantrum and the national anthem and pledge were not played that Monday at the school. Giles' story is that said he "postponed" them "so that the good people could speak out" in support. But the key to whom he is and where he's coming from is his statement that the district should really be looking at other schools and whether they play the national anthem and recite the pledge every day before school.
So, while students will no longer be required to stand for the national anthem, the pledge and whatever else Principal Giles thinks they should be required to hear, he'll still be able to play it to a captive audience.
In fact, the principal now says he is going to play a different song, one that reflects 'his feelings about the nation'. I can only imagine.
Is there something wrong with "Lift Every Voice and Sing"? Not particularly, in its proper context as a relic of the civil rights era.The lyrics and the use to which it's been put over the years make that pretty clear.Sung in a black church or a private gathering, the song is not at all inappropriate.
But touted as 'the black national anthem', positioned as the equivalent or a substitute for "The Star Spangled Banner" and played before a captive audience in a public school is something very different.
It sends a message to both blacks and non-blacks of separatism and disdain for our shared heritage as Americans. Simply put, it's racist. To do that to children whom have no choice is absolutely disgraceful.
The Pledge and our national anthem are something all Americans share, and denying that is deliberately choosing to put yourself outside that common experience.
Let's spin this and imagine that Principal Giles was white and chose to force students to stand in respect while "The Bonnie Blue Flag", "Dixie" or something else characterized as 'the white national anthem ' was played.
Would he still have a job?