Take a Stand; Boycott SOLs

On the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott, which followed Rosa Parks's civil disobedience, I call on Virginia students to boycott the state's Standards of Learning tests.

A poor SOL score has no direct effect on elementary and middle school students or on seniors already accepted to colleges. However, test scores are important to teachers, school administrators and community leaders, who rely on ever-improving test scores to earn bonuses and to market their hometowns as attractive places to live and do business. SOLs are one area where parents and children have political leverage.

Parks's bravery is remembered because her community responded to the injustice of segregation with a boycott that pressured the government to work toward providing liberty and justice for all.

The Pledge of Allegiance, like segregation, is bigotry. The original pledge has been modified during times of crises to exclude foreigners, atheists and people of faith who don't worship the government's God or the government as God. Through mandatory rote repetition, schools have made "liberty and justice for all" a ceremonial vulgarity.

The SOLs should be boycotted until the state legislature replaces the pledge with a patriotic ritual that unifies instead of divides.

This Halloween I asked my three children to remember Parks, who that day lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda. One went to school and passed out Halloween cards that asked others to remain seated during the pledge in honor of Parks, who remained seated to take a stand against segregation. My son said the look on the teacher's face as she scooped up the cards and rushed to the principal's office was better than any horror mask.

In recounting the day's events, he explained what he had learned: "You know, the teachers say Rosa Parks was a hero, but they are clueless that punishing me was saying, like, that what Rosa Parks did was wrong and that she was a bad person."

When I complained to school administrators that teachers routinely disregard the opt-out provisions of the pledge law, Superintendent [Edgar B.] Hatrick III angrily responded in the manner expected of someone who believes the pledge is about worshipping government as God: "We have a school system to run, and you have become a disruption to that process, wasting valuable staff time."

School Board member Bob Ohneiser threatened criminal charges of practicing law without a license if I ever again complain about a teacher abusing the civil rights of a child. His e-mail demanded that I never communicate with him again.

As long as the pledge is used in public schools, the school district must, at a minimum, publish in the Students Rights and Responsibility Handbook and educate teachers and staff that it is optional. Twice a year, when students are notified of the moment-of-silence requirements, teachers must instruct students that anyone has the right to opt out of pledge participation.

For more information about this SOL boycott, contact info@freedomFriday.org.

Edward R. Myers