Tuesday, January 21, 2020
US flag

National anthem protests continue in high schools

Volleyball players at a Minneapolis high school have joined the national protest over the killing of African-American males by police officers, which has been in the news a lot recently, according to a post and photo on Twitter.

Athletes around the country have joined in the protest, taking a knee at football games, volleyball games, and other sporting contests where the national anthem is played. The movement was first made famous by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

The third verse of the Star-Spangled Banner, which is hardly ever sung, contains a reference to the death of slaves:

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battleā€™s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,

And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune quoted Minneapolis School District spokesman Dirk Tedmon as saying, in a statement, that administrators “respect our students’ right to freedom of speech as long as their actions do not threaten the safety and security of others.”

That peaceful response reflects good leadership. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Mr Kaepernick said, according to a report on the BBC. Citing Twitter evidence, the BBC says thousands of high school athletes have joined in the protest.

Everett Henderson, a football player at Chicago Vocational Career Academy, was shot six times earlier this month, just a few hours after he had finished playing in a football game, according to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times. He’s expected to survive, but teammates protested the violence by kneeling during the national anthem at a football game the following week.

Bob Farrace, public affairs director for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, told CBS news that, while students have freedom to protest, “there are limits on students’ free speech.” The limits come from the Supreme Court case known as Tinker v Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 US 503 (1969).

In that case, the Court ruled that the wearing of armbands to protest the Vietnam War was “entirely divorced from actually or potentially disruptive conduct by those participating in it. It was closely akin to ‘pure speech,’ which, we have repeatedly held, is entitled to comprehensive protection under the First Amendment.”

There are limits, of course, such as anything that would be disruptive to school operations. But not standing during the playing of the national anthem doesn’t rise to that level, as long as it doesn’t take place in a hallway or something and block students from moving freely about the building, Mr Farrace was quoted as saying.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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