BY GLENN PUIT
TRAVERSE CITY — Every school day at 8 a.m., Annalysse Gronda puts her hand over her heart and directs her eyes to an American flag on the wall of her fifth grade classroom at Central Grade Elementary School.
Annalysse, 10, then recites the Pledge of Allegiance, in unison, with her 21 classmates.
"We have to respect America," she said. "If we don't, something could happen. We have to protect our country for our freedom."
It's an experience as familiar as apple pie, baseball and the national anthem for anyone who's attended public schools. And, if political predictions ring true, it will also soon be the law in Michigan.
Gov. Rick Snyder this week is expected to sign legislation requiring every school to give students the opportunity to recite the pledge. The legislation also would require an American flag in every classroom.
Traverse City Area Public Schools officials said reciting the pledge is a regular occurrence in many of its classrooms, but not all. Most TCAPS classrooms also have an American flag in them, but some do not.
Dr. Jayne Mohr, TCAPS associate superintendent, said decisions on whether to recite the pledge or have a flag in every classroom are left up to individual schools.
"In our elementary schools "¦ it's done by students for students," Mohr said of the pledge. "Together, everyone stands in the classroom and says the pledge. If the student wants to refrain, no child is forced to say the pledge."
Mohr said the district will find a way to pay for enough American flags for every classroom if Snyder signs the legislation. School officials could not immediately say how many flags they would have to purchase.
"We will comply with the legislation," Mohr said, adding the school district may turn to service organizations to help raise money to buy the flags.
Neal Horning, commander of post #35 American Legion and president of the Grand Traverse Area Veterans Coalition, supports the legislation. He suspects area veterans would help raise money for flags in all classrooms.
Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, co-authored the legislation.
"This is important for children to have the opportunity to recite the pledge," Cotter said. "I think it can build a better sense of patriotism. I remember when I was in school reciting the pledge every day. It was something I looked forward to."
"I started to learn that this was a practice that was fading in Michigan, and I thought it's really sad," Cotter said.