On Thursday, the Fargo Board of Education in North Dakota reversed its decision and will once again recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Last week, the board voted to cancel a previous edict that mandated public schools and governing bodies to recite the pledge. Lawmakers faced backlash for the decision, and have now reimplemented their original edict.
When the board voted last week, seven of the nine members voted to cancel the Pledge of Allegiance mandate. That edict was just approved a couple of months before the recent elections in North Dakota. Following the election, four new members were elected to the board who took office in June. The new board concurred with member Seth Holden who stated that the mandate didn’t fit with the district’s diversity and inclusion code. Holden mainly cited that the phrase “under God” is not inclusive of all faiths.
Earlier this week, North Dakota Republican Gov. Doug Burgum shared support for new legislation. The new edict would require public schools and governing bodies to administer the pledge. However, it would not mandate that people have to recite it. The board held a special meeting on Thursday to reconsider their vote. As evidence of citizens’ displeasure, numerous angry emails and voicemails were read and played in the meeting.
Nyamal Dei, a former refugee from Sudan, seemed to take the brunt of the abuse. One profanity-laced voicemail directed at her called her a racist, a slave, and a Nazi. Multiple lawmakers in attendance apologized to the lone black member of the board for the hate-filled messages, according to a FOX News report.
Police Investigating Abuse Reports Shared at Pledge of Allegiance Meeting
Following the board’s vote on the Pledge of Allegiance mandate, City of Fargo spokesman Gregg Schildberger spoke about the hateful messages. Schildberger said police are investigating a “handful” of threatening messages directed at three board members.
Board member Greg Clark said that less than 20% of the angry messages he received came from Fargo. He also admitted that the messages coming from outsiders influenced his vote.
“I hope you’ll forgive me because I truly believe it is in the best interest of our schools to do so. The disruptions and the threats must end so that we can have a successful start to our school year,” Clark said.
Although around two dozen citizens attended the special meeting, the board did not allow public comments. While some clapped after the vote, Vietnam veteran David Halcrow spoke with Dei after the meeting and apologized for the abuse.
“What was done to her … those people need to be in the clink,” Halcrow said, according to FOX News. “If it were up to me, they would be in jail. There’s no excuse for that kind of thing.”
Dei, who cast the only vote against reinstating the pledge, said reversing the decision is simply giving in to the hate. Yet she also added that the board needs to refocus and get back to work.
“We won’t be rewarding our children or students in our district for acting in this way. But know that this moment will pass,” Dei said at the meeting. “Let’s get back to the work that we are elected to do. And that is to find a solution to our teacher shortages, mental health issues, and academic achievement for our students.”