- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 19, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Students in all South Dakota public schools should recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, a state legislative panel decided Wednesday.

The State Affairs Committee voted unanimously to approve a measure that would require each public school district to give students the chance to recite the pledge each day. A student could choose not to take part, but would be required to maintain a respectful silence while others recite the pledge.

The issue became a hot topic in the state after the Sioux Falls School Board decided last year not to extend the lower grades’ daily pledge recitation to high schools. That led to a barrage of criticism from around the U.S. - including death threats against some board members. The board later reversed course and asked high school students to recite the pledge daily.

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, said the bill is modeled after an Oregon law. He said reciting the pledge could mesh with veterans’ groups programs that educate students about the pledge and the U.S. flag.

Wade Pogany, director of the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, said that organization’s members passed a resolution supporting the daily recitation of the pledge by students at all grade levels. School board members discussed whether such decisions should be left to local schools but decided to back the proposed state law, he said.

“In our world, there are things that are more important than local control, and this is one of them,” Pogany said.

Many school districts already require the daily recitation of the pledge, Pogany said. School board members believe students should be taught about patriotism, the flag and respect for the men and women who have fought in the nation’s military, he said.

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