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Sioux Falls high schoolers to say pledge daily

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — The Sioux Falls School Board has reversed course and will now ask high school students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily, after more than two weeks of backlash that one board member equates to bullying.

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The Monday night vote changed the board's earlier decision to have elementary and middle school students to say the pledge daily, but not high school students. Board members cited the daily flurry of activity at the high school level for the initial decision, but many people including some military veterans objected.

After 70 percent of 3,000 parents who responded to a school district telephone survey said they favored a daily pledge in high schools, the board voted to do that — though students will be not be forced to participate.

"The easy thing for us to do would have been to set our feet and dig in our heels and say, 'Absolutely, we're going to stick with what we did.' But we felt that it was important to get information from the people that we serve," School Board Vice President Kent Alberty said.

However, Alberty also said that he has been "the victim of the most horrible kinds of bullying that I have ever encountered in my entire life."

"As a result, I have a much better understanding of what our students go through when they are bullied via phone calls, in person, via Internet or cyberbullying, or with voicemails left by people who refuse to identify themselves," he said.

The barrage of criticism from around the country — including death threats directed at some board members — prompted officials to remove phone numbers for board members from the school district's website.

Sioux Falls veteran Jim Boorman, who originally asked the board to expand the policy to require high school students to say the pledge daily, thanked the board for its efforts to revise the policy and also apologized.

"I represent many more people in our community than when I was here the first time," he said. "I apologize for the hardships the board members and their families, during this campaign, experienced. That was not our intent; that was not our style. We don't do sniping, we don't do drive-bys. We stop, and we care for the situation."