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Our View: D-304 takes 
appropriate steps after pledge incident

It is January 2013, a time when across the country and right here in Kane County, we are acutely aware that our children’s safety at school must not be taken for granted.

No potential threats to students’ well-being can be shrugged off, and schools need to take the strongest measures possible to ensure student safety.

In that context, we commend the proactive, aggressive security measures taken by Geneva School District 304 regarding the recent incident of a parent verbally lashing out in anger in front of kindergarten students at Mill Creek Elementary School.

On Jan. 9, Colin McGroarty, 41, a parent volunteering at Mill Creek Elementary, became upset when he thought kindergarten students left out the word “liberty” from the Pledge of Allegiance. He considered it an intentional omission on the school’s part, and said he asked to speak to the principal, who was not immediately available. At that point, according to the school district, McGroarty lost his cool and spoke inappropriately in front of students.

School officials quickly called the Kane County Sheriff’s Office to the school. By the time authorities arrived, McGroarty had left.

In addition, the district beefed up security at all of its schools, and issued a no-trespass order that would have McGroarty arrested if he returned to district property.

A U.S. Army veteran, McGroarty compounded matters with a follow-up email to district administrators in which he wrote that he has shed blood for his country “and will do so again if necessary.”

It is understandable that somebody, especially a veteran, might become emotional if he thought the Pledge of Allegiance was being altered – a contention that school officials say is untrue.

However, creating a disturbance at school, in front of children too young to fully grasp the debate in the first place, was clearly an error in judgment on McGroarty’s part. Even if no school administrators were immediately available to discuss the matter, he should have waited for a more appropriate time and place to voice his concerns.

The Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office announced Friday that no criminal charges would be filed. However, State’s Attorney Joe McMahon did note in a news release that the behavior of McGroarty was “lacking in even the most basic common sense.”

We were heartened to see McGroarty issue an apology of sorts on his Facebook page. The former Blackberry Township resident, who now lives in Rockford, said he meant no harm.

That may well be the case, but we are glad District 304 made no assumptions.

That would be a risk nobody involved with protecting our children could afford to take.

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