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Capital High principal says no one forced to recite Pledge

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - No Capital High School student is forced to sing any song or anthem or say the Pledge of Allegiance during the school's morning observances, Principal Clinton Giles said.

That includes the song "Lift Every Voice and Sing," which is played at the school every Friday morning following the pledge and the national anthem, Giles said.

At least two students recently complained to county school officials that they were being forced to recite the pledge.

In a phone interview Tuesday, Giles said allegations that students were forced to participate led him to cancel the recitation of the pledge and the singing of the national anthem Monday. In response, Giles said a majority of students said they wanted to recite the pledge each morning.

Others have criticized him for playing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" in particular because it is known as the "African-American National Anthem."

"I am black, and I'm around a lot of black people. And I do not hear black people refer to it as the 'African-American National Anthem,'" Giles said.

He said he had heard it called similar names in the past but no one calls it that at his school.

The school has played the song every Friday morning for at least three years, Giles said. He said he thinks most students like reciting the pledge and singing.

"The people who oppose it, oppose it because they don't respect anything, in my opinion, that doesn't fit their view of what should be," Giles said. "It's why a convicted felon could get 40 percent of the votes in a primary here in West Virginia, and that's sad."  

At 7:25 every morning, someone asks over the school's intercom system for everyone to stand for the national anthem and the pledge, Giles said. On Fridays, the person asks for people to remain standing for "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and says, "Remember, everybody is somebody at Capital High School."

The last part of that announcement speaks to why Giles plays the song, he said.

After reciting the first few lines of the song and discussing its origins with a Daily Mail reporter, he said the themes from the song fit his school's philosophy.

"My agenda was to take a song that I was familiar with, that conveys a message that I understand, that goes along with the notion that everyone is somebody at Capital High School," Giles said.

Current school policy requires students to stand during the morning observances. Standing is not considered participating, Giles said. In the past students were allowed to sit during that time in the morning.

However, he said students who chose not to participate were disruptive: they would do homework, talk and sometimes even fight, Giles said.

No one has been punished for not participating, and school policy states students do not have to participate, Giles said. He's not sure where that idea came from.

"That's another one of those big-ass Clinton H. Giles lies," he said.

He said anyone would be hard pressed to find someone as patriotic as him. Drafted in 1970, Giles served 20 months and one day in the Army. He was a military policeman at the Fort Hood military prison. His father and three of his brothers served in the military.

He said he is not trying to suggest there is more than one national anthem or force his beliefs onto anyone else. He thinks schools in Kanawha County that do not recite the pledge every morning are the real problem.

He pointed to a portion of West Virginia code that states every instructional day in public schools "shall be commenced" with the pledge. Giles bets fewer than 50 percent of the high schools in the county still recite the pledge.

On Tuesday the school asked students to stand for the pledge and the national anthem, Giles said. They were also asked to remain standing for the song "America the Beautiful," he said.

He doesn't think he'll play "Lift Every Voice and Sing" this Friday. He loves the song but doesn't want people to say he's trying to promote something he's not by doing so.  

He's going to find a different song.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or Follow him at


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