Fargo School Board votes to reinstate Pledge of Allegiance at regular meetings

Photo by: WDAY Radio Staff
Photo by: WDAY Radio Staff

(Fargo, ND) -- Just nine days after voting to nix the Pledge of Allegiance from their regular meetings, the Fargo School Board has officially changed course.

By a vote of 8-1, the board has voted to reinstate the pledge at the beginning of their meetings moving forward. Only Nyamal Dei voted against the motion put forth by board President Dr. Tracie Newman, citing her want to not 'bend to the hate' that was sent her way from messages received over the past week and a half.

Several board members spoke to the local and national attention the original decision to remove to pledge brought. Greg Clark, one of the newest members who was elected in June to the board, cited hundreds of emails and calls he received, mostly from outside the Fargo area. He noted that only about one in five messages received were local, and nearly half of those were in support of the move.

The most powerful statement made during the roughly half-hour meeting may have come from Dei, who was also recently elected to the board. She played a voicemail from her phone that included multiple racist and vulgar comments over her original vote to remove the pledge.

Board member and Vice President Seth Holden, who originally moved to have to pledge be removed from the beginning of meetings, also spoke briefly during the special meeting Thursday evening at the district offices.

"I wonder if losing the battle here is worth winning the war," remarked Holden when talking about the current, in his words, 'war' on public education currently going on. Holden ultimately voted to reinstate the pledge as well.

Another new members, Katie Christensen, spoke via zoom during the meeting of several calls and email calling her degrading names and questioning her ability to be on the board. This led to her filing police reports due to some threats being taken to far.

Jim Johnson, who is the current longest tenured board member, cited his agreement with the initial decision to remove the pledge, but noted he didn't feel it was "in the best interest of Fargo School" to vote no on Dr. Newman's motion to reinstate the pledge.

Many board members who spoke also issued apologies, either to their constituents who voted for them, or to their fellow board members for the attention the previous vote brought on the district.

"To hear and see what I have, even just minutes ago, with people that I truly care about has hurt me," said Holden. "It's a shame to think this is what we've come to as a society."

The original members who voted to keep the pledge on August 9th, Robin Nelson and Nikkie Gullickson, did not speak at the special meeting Thursday night. Both also voted to reinstate the pledge.

The decision comes amid local, regional and National attention that resulted in multiple staff members of the district only taking calls and responding to messages regarding the original pulling of the pledge. Governor Doug Burgum has even begun crafting legislation to present at the upcoming January legislative session that would call on all public boards in North Dakota to recite the pledge moving forward.

The Fargo School Board's next meeting is set for Tuesday, August 23rd at 5:30 p.m.