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Verify: Is this Atlanta school really banning the Pledge of Allegiance?

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School leaders are developing their own morning pledge.

ATLANTA -- A local school is getting a lot of national publicity over a recent decision not to require its students to recite the pledge of allegiance each morning.

According to a letter to students and families from Lara Zelinski, elementary campus principal at Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, "students will continue to lead the meeting by asking our community to stand to participate in our Wolf Pack Chant together. Students will also be given the opportunity to say the pledge at another point during the school day within their classroom."

So 11Alive delved into the story to determine what is really going on.

In her letter, Zelinski said the decision was made "in an effort to begin our day as a fully inclusive and connected community. Over the past couple of years, it has become increasingly obvious that more and more of our community were choosing to not stand and/or recite the pledge. There are many emotions around this and we want everyone in our school family to start their day in a positive manner."

11Alive's Facebook post on the story reached tens of thousands of people, with many taking offense to the school's decision:

► "School leaders" are developing their own pledge. WOW, that fills us with confidence that the kids are being properly manipulated with meaningless, Godless PC garbage.

► If you are an American the pledge is part of what we do. That is being inclusive. Not trying to please everyone. People come to this country for all the benefits, they also so need to respect what the USA is all about. Schools should be the first place to learn that. Stop with the OWN pledge...this is not acceptable.

► This is disgraceful. The school should no longer receive taxpayer dollars.

► If this school recieves state funding, it needs to be stopped immediately. The way to build unity is to Pledge you allegiance to this country and hinor thise that have fought to keep us safe. Principal needs a termination letter now.

But there were other opinions as well:

► Good because there isn't liberty and Justice for all. The president we have now opts out of participating. The pledge has nothing to do with children and has nothing to do with kids not having respect for our country. They see it day in and day out that the adults in this country have no respect for this country.

► Good. I've always thought it's a bizarre thing to make children do.

On Thursday, 11Alive's LaTasha Givens spoke with a school official, who said the pledge will simply no longer be conducted over the loudspeakers, but will still be done in individual classrooms, in addition to the school pledge.

Zelinski said teachers and the school's K-5 leadership team "will be working with students to create a school pledge that we can say together at the morning meeting. This pledge will focus on students’ civic responsibility to their school family, community, country and our global society."

"I am really looking forward to what our students create."

The Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School Board Chair, Lia Santos, later released a statement saying, "starting next week, we will return to our original format and provide our students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge during the all-school morning meeting."

The entire statement is below:

Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School has and will continue to provide students with an opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each school day. In the past, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited during our all-school morning meeting, but at the start of the school year, the daily practice was moved to classrooms. This change was done in compliance with state law [O.C.G.A. 20-2-310 (c)(1)] and aligned Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School with most other schools in the state who also say the Pledge of Allegiance in individual classrooms. However, it appears there was some miscommunication and inconsistency in the rollout. Starting next week, we will return to our original format and provide our students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge during the all-school morning meeting.

At ANCS, our priority is to provide our students with a safe and dynamic learning environment where they cultivate a love for learning, develop self-knowledge, and are constantly challenged to excel. We support our students in their growth and see it as our duty as educators to respect their First Amendment rights.

We are working together with the school administration to ensure we address concerns and feedback from our school family, while continuing to uphold and support the rights of every member of our school community.

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