UPDATE: Kathy Marsh, director of media relations at Orange County Public Schools, has released a statement to TLR to provide a contrasting perspective to this story. It reads as follows:
“If a student or staff member kneels or otherwise demonstrates their objection during the singing or playing of our National Anthem at a public event, there is no legal mechanism by which to discipline the individual as a result of this act. However, if their actions are disruptive discipline may be imposed. Unlike the provisions in the law regarding the pledge of allegiance, a written note from a parent is not required. The OCPS Office of Legal Services will be reviewing this matter to insure compliance with all applicable legal decisions and statutes.”
Original story follows below:
by Micah J. Fleck
There’s nothing like good old fashioned nationalism wrapped up in the guise of patriotism. And the most recent case of this farce occurring in in Florida’s Orange County Public Schools system, which is now forcing children to stand, hand-over-hearts, to give reverence to the American flag and National Anthem. More specifically, the children will face academic punishment if they do not do so – unless they have express written parental permission ahead of time. Quite a bizarre rule. But this all comes on the heels of a previous case of at least one student in the district who chose to kneel rather than stand – clearly in solidarity with 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who did so recently as an act of protest as well as a symbol of how much like a dictatorship the U.S. government can behave.
According to The Huffington Post:
District officials told WSBTV that they were following state law regarding the pledge of allegiance, a strict and controversial statute that requires unadulterated participation in patriotic gestures.
The statute reads, in part:
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, men removing the headdress, except when such headdress is worn for religious purposes … 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. When the pledge is given, unexcused students must show full respect to the flag by standing at attention
Other school districts are punishing students who don’t follow state law. In Collier County, one principal is telling students that they’ll be sent home if they don’t stand during the anthem during sporting events, WFLA reports.
“You will stand and you will stay quiet,” Lely High School Principal Ryan Nemeth announced. “If you don’t, you are going to be sent home and you’re not going to have a refund of your ticket price.”
This flies in the face of the true patriotism and utilization of First Amendment rights Kaepernick himself displayed at the start of this controversy, of course, and with taxpayer funding behind them, there is a solid case to be made that these schools have no right to restrict the students in these ways.