Pledge ruling won’t affect Tahoe schools |

Pledge ruling won’t affect Tahoe schools

William Ferchland

A ruling by a federal judge who deemed the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools as unconstitutional will have no short-term influence on the two South Shore school districts.

The Wednesday ruling by U.S. District Judge Lawrence Karlton in Sacramento bars the pledge being said at the Elk Grove Unified, Rio Linda, Sacramento City Unified and Elverta Joint Elementary school districts in Sacramento County, where the plaintiffs’ children attend.

The order would not extend beyond those districts unless it is affirmed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which could apply the ban to nine western states, or the U.S. Supreme Court, which would apply to all states.

“I guess my one-word response is ‘ridiculous,’ and we’ll see where it goes next,” said Douglas County School District Superintendent John Soderman. “The gentleman involved seems to just be very persistent, but I don’t know if that represents the majority of the interests of Americans by a long shot.”

Students of all grades recite the pledge every morning, as they do at Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

“The challenge was specific to a couple of districts, therefore I don’t see an impact until it makes its way through the courts,” said James Tarwater, LTUSD superintendent.

An e-mail was sent out soon after the ruling to all district superintendents in El Dorado County by the county’s office of education after consulting with legal counsel.

“Given that the restraining order applies only to the named defendants, and the fact the status of the court’s order pending appeal is not known, it is not currently recommended that El Dorado County school districts alter their current practices regarding recitation of the pledge,” stated Vicki Barber, county superintendent, in the e-mail. “We may receive direction from (California Department of Education) that would change our advice on this. But at this time, we do not believe any change is warranted. Our office will continue to monitor the progress of the case and advise you of any changes.”

The 9th Circuit ruled in favor of Sacramento atheist Michael Newdow that the pledge is unconstitutional when recited in public schools in 2002.

The Supreme Court struck down the case last year, but Newdow filed an identical case on behalf of three unnamed parents and their children.

On Thursday, the California School Boards Association urged a blanket decision on the issue.

“(The California School Boards Association) continues to believe very strongly that the Pledge of Allegiance – as it stands – is an important exercise in patriotism and civics,” stated Executive Director Scott Plotkin in an e-mail. “Today’s decision certainly does not signal the end of the discussion surrounding the pledge in California public schools. The fact of the matter remains that we are frustrated by the lack of resolution to the matter.”

The decision sets up another church-state showdown at a time when the Supreme Court has two vacancies. John Roberts, who would succeed the late William H. Rehnquist as chief justice, is undergoing confirmation hearings, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is retiring.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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