[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/12/01/pledge.jpg caption="Parents discuss the Pledge of Allegiance issue with Principal Michaela Martin at Woodbury Elementary School."]
The Boston Globe
The Woodbury Village Store, the only one in town, welcomes hunters and other patrons with a hand-written sign that reads, "Shirt and pants and shoes required," in a snow-dusted North Country hamlet where many weathered homes are stooped with age.
Inside, the sleepy tableau seems frozen in time. But just up the hill, at the Woodbury Elementary School, an aggressive effort to return a daily recital of the Pledge of Allegiance to its four small classrooms has pitted neighbor against neighbor, unsettled students and staff, and spawned a vitriolic burst of incendiary name-calling.
No one in this tiny community of 809 people can recall anything like it. And the rancor has settled so deeply into the psyche here that residents and school officials say the wounds might take years to heal.
"I can see the devastation of this. It's real, and it's palpable," said Mark Andrews, co-superintendent of schools. At issue is whether the Pledge of Allegiance should be recited in the classroom every day by the 53 pupils in the 94-year-old school, just as it is believed to be in most elementary school classrooms across the country.
The move has been spearheaded by a retired Marine Corps major, who quickly gathered 310 signatures on a townwide petition after the Pledge of Allegiance, which used to be recited once a week in a schoolwide assembly, disappeared entirely in the spring.
"People were pulling the clipboard out of my hand and saying, 'That's disgraceful,' " said Ted Tedesco, a veteran of the Gulf War.
Conflicting definitions and questions of patriotism, values, and ideology have polarized the town, residents said, and longtime friendships have become one of the casualties of an issue that had hardly crossed anyone's mind until the petition surfaced.
"I've seen people in this town who have been friends for years that now won't speak to each other," said Jeff Kaiser, a nurse who lives on a 46-acre hilltop spread with his wife and two daughters, one of whom is a first-grader.
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