They started marching at sunset.
For 30 minutes over a mile and a half, about 80 students, parents and other community members protested the 1776 Pledge that three new members of the Johnston School Board, who were sworn in Monday night, signed prior to their election.
The pledge, promoted by the group 1776 Action, which backed Derek Tidball, Clint Evans and Deb Davis for the board, asks signers to agree to restore “honest, patriotic education” in schools, among other tenets.
Chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, 76 has got to,” “This is what democracy looks like” and “You have reached the edge, denounce the pledge,” high school juniors Esha Bolar and Waverly Zhao led the clad-in-black crowd down Merle Hay Road from the Johnston Public Library, turning toward the district office at Northwest 62nd Avenue with the assistance of Johnston police and adults with white flags and glow sticks to light their way.
The group, which also consisted of members of the Community of Racial Equity, March for Our Lives and Johnston Parents for Equity and Anti-Racism, was protesting the pledge, Bolar said — not the candidates or the results of the election.
Shalome Musignac-Jordan said she and other parents attended the march to show solidarity with the students. She said the pledge makes students feel like they can’t speak their truth.
“The issue is that it erases the voices of students — particularly minoritized and marginalized students and, especially, students of color,” she said.
Bolar worked with members of J-PEAR to organize the march after comments made by observers, including Sen. Jake Chapman, an Adel Republican and the president of the Iowa Senate, at last week’s book reconsideration meeting. Chapman told those at the meeting that he intends to draft legislation that would make it a felony to distribute “obscene” material to students, specifically mentioning teachers.
“Our goal is to get to all the school board members to denounce the pledge,” Bolar said Monday night.
The marchers made their way to the district’s offices at about 5:30 p.m., where they met a prayer circle that consisted of parents and community members in support of the most recently elected board members.
Parent Michelle Veach said she and others at the meeting helped with the three candidates’ campaigns and are passionate about them being on the board. She wanted them to know that there are people that are excited to see their leadership, she said.
“I have voted for candidates who have lost in many elections and I don’t show up to protest when those people take office,” Veach said. “I think that this is a negative event for our community.”
Inside, more than 100 people packed the district’s board room. Speakers, a majority of which were against the pledge, took up about 40 minutes of the meeting’s public comment period.
Tenets of the pledge that candidates must agree to uphold in public schools include:
Restoring “honest, patriotic education” that cultivates in children “a profound love for our country.”
Promoting a curriculum that teaches that “all children are created equal, have equal moral value under God, our Constitution and the law, and are members of a national community united by our founding principles.”
Prohibiting curriculum that “pits students against one another” on the basis of race or sex.
Preventing schools from “politicizing education” by prohibiting curriculum that requires students to protest or lobby during or after school.
Before signing the pledge, candidates must also affirm that they share a set of beliefs, including that the United States is an “exceptional nation,” that the founding fathers and other leaders were “among the greatest Americans to ever live” and deserve to be honored as heroes, and that young people should be taught to view each other as “individuals made in the image of God” and not by race or gender.
No action was taken to denounce the pledge during the meeting. The marchers left the boardroom before the three members were sworn in.
The new members replace Steven Hopper, who did not run for reelection, and Justin Allen and Jeanie Kerber, who lost their bids for reelection.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Iowans protest ‘1776 pledge’ supported by new school board members