High school players are now participating in taking a knee during the national anthem and while the Houston’s ISD announced they will not penalize their students, one school district in Louisiana firmly said there will be consequences if any of their students participate during this season.

KHOU reported that school officials in Louisiana are informing student athletes that they will be punished if they choose to kneel during the national anthem by running extra laps or serving suspension. Another principal threatened that students will even be thrown off the team if caught kneeling.

According to the New York Post, Principal Waylon Bates of Parkway High School in Bossier Parish, LA sent a letter home to parents warning them there would be disciplinary action if students partake in demonstrations.

Once the information got out, American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana alerted the school district 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.  Executive Director of the ACLU of Louisiana Marjorie Esman said:

Any punishment would be 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 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.

However HISD released its own statement indicating students can choose to participate in the national anthem or not.  Their full statement can be found below.

 It has been a tradition at HISD athletic events for participants and fans alike to stand in honor of the American flag and the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of such contests.  HISD also protects the constitutional right of student athletes, as set forth explicitly in HISD Board Policy FNA (LEGAL), not to participate in that tradition.  Specifically, the long standing United States Supreme Court ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette held that students may not be compelled to participate in patriotic observances, which include standing, saluting and reciting the pledge of allegiance.  Accordingly, HISD will not mandate nor interfere in the actions of student athletes in observing or not observing the tradition of standing during the national anthem.

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