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Capital High School principal cancels Pledge of Allegiance for a day

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The principal of one Kanawha County high school said Monday he canceled the Pledge of Allegiance for one day at his school because students said they were being forced to say it.

"It disturbed me that individuals would misrepresent what we were doing here," Capital High School Principal Clinton Giles said Monday evening.

Giles said Kanawha County Superintendent Ron Duerring recently called him and told him two students had complained they were being forced to recite the pledge.

"That bothered me, so for one day we suspended the practice of beginning the day with the national anthem and the pledge," Giles said.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students could not be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance or to salute the American flag in school. That case began in West Virginia with a family of Jehovah's Witnesses, who argued that the state law requiring students to say the Pledge of Allegiance violated their religious beliefs.

In 2010, Giles said, he decided that all students, whether they said the pledge or not, would stand up during it and not distract those participating.

Before 2010, students could either stand or sit quietly, he said.

"What we noticed was that we had people who would not sit quietly. They would sit and do homework, work on a computer, horseplay or hold conversation," Giles said. "There's no requirement [students] put their hand over their heart or recite the pledge."

That worked, he said, until the latest problem with students saying they were forced to say the pledge. After canceling the recitation of the pledge Monday, Giles said the optional recital would return Tuesday morning.

"What we found, is what I believed would happen -- a majority of [students] stood up and said, 'We want this, Mr. Giles, our day doesn't begin properly without it,'" Giles said. Reach Kate White at kate.white@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1723.


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