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ACLU condemns LA school board threat to bench student athletes who take a knee

ACLU condemns LA school board threat to bench student athletes who take a knee
ACLU condemns LA school board threat to bench student athletes who take a knee
Posted at 8:35 AM, Sep 29, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-29 04:44:19-04

SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - The ACLU is condemning the Bossier Parish School Board's threat to punish students who do not stand during the National Anthem.

The ACLU of Louisiana says Louisiana schools were put on notice Thursday, warning them that forcing students to stand during the National Anthem or punishing students who “take a knee” in protest of racial injustice and police brutality would violate students’ First Amendment rights. 

The statement comes after the Caddo and Bossier Parish school districts issued starkly contrasting statements on how they will address student-athletes who choose to protest similarly. 

In a statement released by the Caddo Parish School Board Wednesday, district leaders said that students and staff have the right to practice their First Amendment rights as long as their protest remains peaceful and civil.

In Bossier Parish, however, student-athletes who choose not to stand during the National Anthem could find themselves on the sidelines. 

KSLA obtained a copy of a letter sent Thursday to Parkway High school parents and athletes, which said,

"The LHSAA (Louisiana High School Athletic Association) allows school principals to make decisions regarding student participation in the National Anthem while competing in athletic contests and games. Parkway High School requires student-athletes to stand in a respectful manner throughout the National Anthem during any sporting event in which their team is participating. Failure to comply will result in loss of playing time and/ or participation as directed by the head coach and principal. Continued failure to reply will result in removal from the team. Parkway High School is committed to creating a positive environment for sporting events that is free of disruption to the athletic contest or game."

Parkways plays at Airline High School Friday at 7 p.m. There is no word on whether any students are planning to protest at that game. 

According to a statement released by the Bossier Parish School Board,

"Our principals and their coaching staffs have sole discretion in determining consequenes should a student-athlete elect not to stand during the National Anthem and they are making their expectations know to players and their families this week."

The Louisiana High School Athletic Association says rules and regulations do not take precedent and that any action taken during a pre-event, such as the National Anthem, will be ruled on by each school on an individual basis. Read the full memo here

Bossier School District spokeswoman Sonja Bailes says participating in elective sports is a privilege, not a right, and referred to the LHSAA memo giving principals the right to decide on actions it deems inappropriate.

In response to that stance, the ACLU of Louisiana issued a statement Friday referencing a Supreme Court ruling that state schools have no business forcing students to stand for the patriotic rituals.

“Bossier Parish is threatening to punish students for peacefully protesting racial injustice and taking a principled position for freedom and equality. This is antithetical to our values as Americans and a threat to students’ constitutional rights.

Nearly 75 years ago, the Supreme Court rightly held that state schools have no business forcing students to stand for patriotic rituals. The Court also reminded public school administrators that part of their job is to train students for participation in our free society. This principle holds no less true today, and no less true on the playing field than it does in the classroom. Schools have no valid interest in turning their students into mouthpieces of government speech, full stop. Indeed, schools should respect students who embrace their constitutional rights and stand up to injustice – not punish them. And it would be patently unconstitutional for the school to do so.”

Click here to read the full statement from the ACLU.

Copyright 2017 KSLA. All rights reserved.

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