A father who vehemently complained that kindergartners were omitting the word “liberty” from the Pledge of Allegiance has been banned from school grounds, an Illinois sheriff’s official says.
Security has been increased at a suburban Illinois elementary school after an angry parent disrupted a kindergarten class by complaining that children weren’t reciting the Pledge of Allegiance correctly, law-enforcement and school officials said.
The parent, who authorities said is a military veteran, followed up with an email that accused the school of “teaching fascism.” He added: “I've shed blood for this Country and will do so again if necessary.”
Kane County sheriff's Lt. Pat Gengler told MSN News on Friday that detectives are continuing to investigate but thus far have found no evidence of “direct threats toward anyone.”
No arrests have been made, although the parent has been banned from Mill Creek Elementary in Geneva, Ill., about 50 miles west of Chicago, via a no-trespass order issued by the school district, Gengler said.
The incident happened Wednesday, prompting the sheriff’s office to post a deputy at Mill Creek Elementary on Thursday and Friday. Officers were also sent to check on other Geneva schools.
Gengler said authorities didn’t want to take any chances in the aftermath of last month’s shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., in which a 20-year-old gunman killed 20 students and six adults.
“I think when you’ve got a situation, especially in the environment we’re in with Connecticut being in the forefront of everybody’s mind, anytime there’s some sort of incident at school everybody’s going be a little extra cautious,” Gengler said. “We would rather be overly cautious than kind of under-respond to a situation like that.”
A statement from the school district said the disturbance happened Wednesday afternoon in the school library where a kindergarten class had assembled. The parent, who has a child in the class and was volunteering at the school, became upset with how the children were reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, contending they were leaving out the word “liberty” from the last phrase.
“He kind of got into a verbal disagreement with the teacher over how that was going,” Gengler said.
The parent used “language that is not typically heard in a school setting,” the district said.
“The situation was quickly resolved in order to minimize the disruption to the academic process, and the Kane County Sheriff’s Department was notified,” the district added.
On Wednesday evening, the parent followed up with an email to school board members, administrators and some parents, again accusing the school of reciting the Pledge incorrectly.
The email, posted online by the Geneva Patch, said in part:
“I WILL NOT stand for my children standing in front of the flag, hand on heart, reciting a corrupted Pledge of Allegiance that leaves out ‘liberty’ and has students stating they will obey all rules and commands of teachers. I witnessed this first hand today and am ashamed. You are teaching fascism plain and simple. My children will not grow up as blind followers who don't think for themselves.
I can think of no reason for having a separate pledge for kindergarteners and first graders then indoctrination of the young. Not going to happen on my watch. I've shed blood for this Country and will do so again if necessary.”
In a follow-up message to parents, Mill Creek Elementary Principal George Petmezas denied that the word “liberty” was being excluded from the recitation of the Pledge, the Geneva Patch reported.
"We have been reciting the Pledge of Allegiance the same way since the school opened, which is the same way as I remember it as a child. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, our students also recite the Mill Creek Elementary School Creed," the message said, according to the Patch.
The Geneva School District on Friday said safety is a top priority.
“We truly understand that you can never be too careful when it comes to the safety of students and staff,” the district said in a statement. “Please know that this was a situation specific to a particular building involving an identified individual, and that the decision to increase law enforcement presence at the other buildings was purely for precautionary reasons.”
Detectives interviewed the parent on Thursday. The man explained his actions, Gengler said, declining to go into details.
The sheriff's office will forward its findings to the Kane County State’s Attorney’s office once the investigation is complete.
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