Parent’s ‘Pledge’ complaint leads to police report

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

GENEVA – A parent disrupted the Pledge of Allegiance at Mill Creek Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon, prompting district officials to increase security measures and send a letter home to parents.

According to a statement from Geneva School District 304, a parent used “language that is not typically heard in a school setting” while a kindergarten class was present in the school’s library. The statement says that the situation was resolved quickly, and the Kane County Sheriff’s Office was notified.

The parent, Colin McGroarty, 41, whose children attend Mill Creek, said he was at the school earlier than usual Wednesday and saw students saying the Pledge of Allegiance. He said he volunteers at the school for a few hours around noon every Wednesday.

“It warmed my heart until they got to the end and kept going,” he said.

McGroarty said immediately after saying the Pledge of Allegiance, the students went right into reciting the Mill Creek Elementary School creed, which states, “In order to develop good citizens, we believe that every person should treat others with respect, follow school and classroom rules and try their best.”

Wednesday evening, McGroarty sent an email to district board members, administrators and a few parents associated with Mill Creek and also posted a social media message with concerns that the word “liberty” had been excluded from the Pledge of Allegiance. The district’s statement said the word “liberty” had not been excluded from the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited daily in all of Geneva’s schools.

McGroarty, a former Blackberry Township resident who lives in Rockford, said when he approached the faculty about the pledge, he was told kindergarteners and first-graders say a different Pledge of Allegiance. He took issue with students reciting the school’s creed after the pledge, and felt children were being “indoctrinated” by reciting words they don’t completely understand.

In the email, McGroarty wrote he has shed blood for his country “and will do so again if necessary.” He said that line wasn’t meant as a threat, and as a U.S. Army veteran, he would defend his country today if he was needed.

The Kane County Sheriff’s Office was called to the school, and Lt. Pat Gengler, the spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said McGroarty had left by the time authorities arrived. He said a deputy had been assigned to the school all day as an increased security measure.

“It’s definitely not normal to have a deputy assigned over all day,” he said. “The safety and security of the kids is of utmost importance.”

Gengler said the investigation is ongoing, and he was unsure whether the parent would be charged with any offenses. The school district’s statement said an increased police presence would continue Thursday and in the future.

McGroarty said he isn’t seeking any type of lawsuit against the school, but he hopes to get this message across by speaking out.

“If you’re going to do the pledge, you should do the pledge – not something that’s been modified,” he said.

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