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Local: Education

Pledge issue in South Dakota prompts death threats

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Education,Associated Press,South Dakota,Patriotism

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Phone numbers for Sioux Falls School Board members have been removed from the school district's website in response to menacing calls and threats from around the country related to a recent decision regarding the Pledge of Allegiance.

The board decided last week that middle school students will be required to recite the pledge each day, along with elementary school students, but that the mandate will not be expanded to high school students. The board cited the daily flurry of activity at the high school level, and noted that the pledge is recited during school-wide assemblies and sporting events.

A group of veterans wanted the district to make the pledge mandatory in high schools as well, and national media coverage of the issue has brought a flurry of complaints, according to the Argus Leader newspaper (http://argusne.ws/18PiFR3 ).

Board member Kate Parker said she has received as many as 200 emails and a number of phone calls. Board member Kent Alberty said he has received about 50 phone calls, most from outside South Dakota. Board member Todd Thoelke said he also has received dozens of emails and phone calls, including some death threats.

"I ran for this office. I am extremely proud to hold this position and still am, because I'm here to do good, not here to do bad," Thoelke said. "But my family did not sign up for this. ... my girls have been terrified."

Board members said inaccurate media coverage of the policy decision — including a local television report that said the board had voted to end the practice of saying the pledge in high schools — fanned the flames.

Now, only the board members' email addresses are available on the district's website, along with a phone number for the school district's general offices.

State Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, said last week that he plans to introduce a bill next year to require all schoolchildren in South Dakota to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day of class.

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