When Sean Harrington arrived at Arlington High School three years ago, he noticed something peculiar -- there were no American flags in the classroom and no one recited the Pledge of Allegiance. Harrington enlisted the aid of his fellow students and during his freshman year they were successful in getting flags in the classrooms. The pledge, however, will not be recited.
The school committee in Arlington, MA, defeated the 17-year-old's request that would have allowed students to voluntarily recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Some education leaders worried that it would be hard to find teachers willing to recite the pledge, according to a report in the Arlington Patch.
Harrington had presented school officials with a petitioned signed by 700 people along with letters of support from lawmakers like Sen. John Kerry and Sen. Joe Lieberman. The request failed to gain support on a 3-3 tie.
"I was really heartbroken," Harrington told FOX News Radio. "It's hard to think that something so traditional in American society was turned down."
His fight has received quite a bit of support from the community. Francis De Guglielmo, 55, told the local newspaper, the Pledge ban is an "absolute travesty" and a "disgrace."
"When I was going to school, it was an honor and a privilege to pledge allegiance to the flag," he told the newspaper.
Harrington, who will be a senior in the fall, said he will continue to fight. "I'm not a person who quits and I don't back down. It's a very righteous cause and needs to be followed through until the end."
Some committee members voiced concerns about forcing people to do something that might violate their beliefs - including religious beliefs. Among the no-votes was committee member Leba Heigham.
"Patriotism is a very personal thing for all of us, but I do not think it is in the School Committee's best interest to mandate that any of our employees recite the pledge," she told the Arlington Patch.
But Harrington said the recitation would have been strictly voluntary.
"If we can't find one teacher who is willing to say the pledge, then the system we have is cracked," he told FOX News Radio, noting that a number of teachers signed his petition.
Harrington said the school's ban on the pledge sends the wrong message. "It tells me that we've basically case aside what our country is founded on," he said. "It's saying that we don't really care and it's sad."
UPDATE: Arlington's Superintendent of Schools returned my call late this evening. Following is additional information about the pledge of allegiance.
After controversy erupted over the matter, the principal of Arlington High School offered to host a daily recitation of pledge before the start of the school day in the foyer. Students will be allowed to voluntarily recite the pledge before attending homeroom class.
Kathleen Bodie, the superintendent of schools, told FOX News Radio the pledge is voluntarily recited at the elementary and middle schools but hasn't been recited at the high school in decades.
"The principal wanted to be very respectful about the pledge and be sensitive to the Supreme Court ruling that students are not forced to say the pledge," she said. "He wanted to be sensitive to the diverse group of students we have."
She acknowledged that there are concerns about the words "under God."
"I don't know if it's all about 'under God' but that is certainly an aspect of it," she said.
Bodie also said there was reluctance to mandate or put teachers in a position of reciting the pledge.