LINCOLN, Neb. — A high school basketball referee and a state senator are teaming up to make sure Nebraska public school students recite the Pledge of Allegiance first thing in the morning, every morning.
Sen. Tony Fulton of Lincoln has introduced a bill to require that a United States flag be posted in every public school classroom and that students be led in the Pledge of Allegiance during the first class of every school day.
Under the measure, all K-12 classrooms would have a flag and pupils would be led in a group recitation of the pledge, starting this fall.
Fulton said most schools in the state recite the pledge up until about fifth grade, but older students need to be reminded to be more respectful.
"I go to a lot of sporting events," Fulton said. "I pay attention to how high-schoolers conduct themselves during the National Anthem.
"A lot of kids don't know the protocol. They don't know they are supposed to put their hand over their heart for the national anthem. They don't know that they are supposed to be quiet during the national anthem. No cellphone. No talking."
Fulton said he put his pledge measure (LB990) into play after being pressed by Vietnam veteran and basketball referee Richard Zierke of Lincoln.
Zierke said he was surfing the Internet and came across a site on Pledge of Allegiance laws. He found that 43 states have a law regarding the pledge. Nebraska doesn't have one.
"I'm a Marine. I said 'What? In my state? No way,'" Zierke said.
"I feel like my country is slipping away, going to pieces. I've got to put a piece back in there."
Under the bill, no one would be forced to recite the pledge. The person who leads the pledge would be left to individual schools. Debate in the Legislature's Education Committee begins Tuesday, and the state Department of Education has voted to support the measure.
Fulton said reciting the pledge is an expression of citizenship, one he professed in school as a child.
"Certainly, the Pledge of Allegiance rises to the point of being included in state statute," he said.
"Kids. They are not evil, they just haven't been taught. Everyone is not an Eagle Scout. It's just that not everybody knows what to do."
Zierke cut straight to the point.
"It's all about patriotism," he said. "It ain't nothing new."