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New San Fran school board president breaks protocol, begins first meeting without Pledge of Allegiance

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The new president of San Francisco’s school board has opted out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before meetings, choosing to read something else instead.

Stevon Cook did not just decide to skip the Pledge of Allegiance, he replaced it with a quote from the poet Maya Angelou: “When you learn, teach. When you get, give,” The San Francisco Chronicle reported.

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Cook, who was elected to lead the board in the wake of former President Hydra Mendoza’s departure two weeks ago, purposely omitted the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of the San Francisco school board’s meeting Tuesday night, choosing to read the Angelou quote instead.

“There are a lot of ways to express gratitude and appreciation for the country and its citizens,” Cook said Wednesday, noting his plan to read quotes from influential Americans before each meeting. “This is how I plan to do that.”

“Although there is a requirement that schools conduct a pledge or similar activity, there is no such requirement for school boards,” district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

Cook told The Chronicle that he sees the political climate as disappointing and said the Trump administration “has been attacking our liberties.”

He also believes most people do not know or understand the historical context for the pledge.

“If you ask 10 Americans who wrote it, or when it was implemented, or why it is how we start our meetings, a lot of us would be hard pressed (to answer),” Cook said.

Written in 1892 by Christian socialist minister, Francis Bellamy, The Pledge of Allegiance was given the additional  words “under God” by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 due to the rise of communism.

School board member Rachel Norton was impressed with Cook’s plan, though she admitted she did not realize at first that he had not called for the pledge to be recited.

“It feels respectful and it feels thoughtful,” she told the Chronicle. “Maya Angelou is an alumnus of (San Francisco’s) Washington High School, so who better to start a new tradition?”

Cook insists the move is not an act of protest, saying “I’m no Colin Kaepernick,” referring to the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sparked national controversy in 2016 after kneeling during the national anthem before National Football League games.

“I’m not doing it as a way to seek attention,” he said, noting that the words of inspirational Americans can express values like inclusion and social justice.

“I really think that these people are a great testament to our values and who we should aspire to be as Americans,” he said.

But while his school board colleagues may not have objected to the break from protocol, others found Cook’s decision simply “disgraceful.”

Frieda Powers


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