A school district in Florida is telling students that they need to have parental permission to sit or kneel during the national anthem at football games. The announcement by Orange County Public Schools comes after reports of students around the district kneeling at football games, echoing the same protests of many NFL players including Colin Kaepernick.
The schools are using a Florida state law as justification for their actions. Many states have what are known as Pledge of Allegiance statutes, which, as the name suggests, govern how schools administer it. Florida’s is one of the strictest in the nation. Part of the statute reads:
“Each district school board may adopt rules to require, in all of the schools of the district, programs of a patriotic nature to encourage greater respect for the government of the United States and its national anthem and flag … When the national anthem is played, students and all civilians shall stand at attention…”
This is the only exception given by the statute:
“Upon written request by his or her parent, the student must be excused from reciting the [pledge of allegiance], including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart.”
Some Florida districts are punishing students who don’t follow their guidelines. One school principal said that students not standing for the national anthem (athlete or spectator) would be sent home immediately.
The entire issue stands on uncertain legal ground. While the Supreme Court has ruled that minor students do have fewer Constitutional rights than adults, they still have the right to freedom of speech. In fact, the 11th Circuit Court of Federal Appeals found the Florida law requiring students to “stand at attention” was a violation of their First Amendment rights.
But you know, nothing says land of the free like restricting our own citizens’ Constitutional rights. Greatest nation in the world and all that.
Need a quick refresher on what the Freedom of Speech is, Florida? Try this.
Feature image via Youtube screengrab