Pledge recital in Spanish a concern for parents

Parents have voiced concerns to the Garfield Re-2 school board over the recent recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish in a middle school, and about a Latino-themed high school club.

Rifle resident Tina Holtz said she became concerned when her daughter came home from Rifle Middle School and told her the morning announcements video that is broadcast to classes included a group of students leading the recitation of the pledge in Spanish.

Meanwhile, Don Cummings, whose son is a graduate of Coal Ridge High School east of Silt, said he and other parents are upset that a club at that school wants to attend a state event of the National Council of La Raza, an organization Cummings said has ties to separatist, radical and racist causes.

“There’s a great concern in a big group of parents that this type of group doesn’t belong there in our school system,” Cummings said.

Both he and Holtz said the parents aren’t being racist themselves in their concerns. Holtz said she’d be equally upset if the pledge had been recited in her family’s native German.

She said middle school students weren’t given the chance to say the pledge in English on Sept. 22, when the video was played in Spanish. That violates state law providing that students should be allowed to say the pledge each morning, she said.

School district officials disagree, saying students were able to say the pledge in English even as it was being played in Spanish, or immediately afterward.

Holtz said teachers and students were caught off guard and no such opportunity was given.

District spokeswoman Theresa Hamilton said the Spanish pledge was a chance for students with limited English skills to learn the pledge and help them eventually learn it in English.

School board vice president Scott Doherty said at the previous board meeting that the Coal Ridge club originally was calling itself La Raza but was asked by the principal to change its name because of negative connotations. It then chose the name Latinos Unidos, but changed it again at the school’s request to Todos Unidos (Everyone United) to make clear it is abiding by federal mandates that clubs be open to participation by all students.

Said Cummings, “It’s not the name. It’s what they do and what they stand for and what they want to raise money for.”

Hamilton said that per standard district protocol, the group will have to seek school board approval if it wants to attend the state event and raise money for the trip.

The club also is involved in activities such as mentoring elementary school students and raising funds to help an orphanage in Guatemala.

On its website, the National Council of La Raza said “raza” means people or community, but sometimes is mistranslated as “race,” incorrectly implying an intention to exclude others. It also denies allegations that it supports separatist organizations.

Coal Ridge senior Norma Lopez said her club never called itself La Raza, and is open to anyone. She said the Denver event is aimed at encouraging students to go college and do something important with their lives.

She said the club is open to questions about it.

“If people don’t like it, then sure, we’ll talk about it,” she said. “Just give us an opportunity to show you what it’s about.”


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