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La. school threatens punishment for athletes who don’t stand for National Anthem

September 28, 2017 / Athletic AdministrationCoaching
A Louisiana school on Thursday dispatched a memo to student-athletes and parents, threatening punishment for athletes who do not stand for the National Anthem.

Bossier Schools Superintendent Scott Smith released a statement Wednesday, saying that the district expects student-athletes to stand in solidarity and honor the sacrifices of men and women in the military. Parkway High School, one of five high schools in the Bossier district, issued a memo informing athletes that failure to stand in a respectful manner during the National Anthem would result in loss of playing time or participation “as directed by the head coach and principal.” Continued failure to comply would result in removal from the team, the letter continued.

“In Bossier Parish, we believe when a student chooses to join and participate on a team, the players and coaches should stand when our National Anthem is played in a show of respect,” Smith said in his statement. “This extends to those that elect to join a club or student organization, which requires a faculty sponsor. It is a choice for students to participate in extracurricular activities, not a right, and we at Bossier Schools feel strongly that our teams and organizations should stand in unity to honor our nation’s military and veterans.”

Click here to read Smith’s full letter.

National Anthem protests have taken place throughout the nation at the pro, college and high school levels. They’ve sparked a debate between those who believe in an athlete’s right to protest, and those who believe all Americans should respect the flag and our military.

Colorado Christian University, a private school, earlier this week issued a similar mandate, telling student-athletes they are required to stand for the National Anthem. The Bossier Schools’ decision in Louisiana might be the first test of whether a public school system can do the same.

Opponents like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are already calling the Bossier mandate illegal. It cites a 1943 Supreme Court ruling that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment protects students from being forced to salute the flag during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Bossier Schools has drawn the ire of the ACLU before. In 2015, the ACLU asked Bossier Schools to remove “prayer boxes” from Airline High School, arguing it violated a constitutional requirement that state-supported activity is not used for religious indoctrination. The ACLU also asked the district to remove prayer from its graduation ceremony, but the school board responded by saying students have a right pray.

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