OK School Shows How Not to Handle Anthem Protests

In contrast to the school system in Ames, Iowa, the Stuart Public Schools in Oklahoma is blatantly violating the First Amendment by passing a new policy requiring all students to stand for the national anthem and threatening to punish them if they make any “gestures of protest.” Here’s the text of the new policy:

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Stuart Public School respects the right of students and spectators to have their political and social beliefs, certainly, and to express those beliefs at appropriate times. With that in mind, all students, student-athletes and spectators are expected to stand during the playing of the National Anthem at all school events, sporting or non-sporting, without any gestures of demonstration or protest.

Any student violation of the policy concerning the national anthem would be handled on a case-by-case basis, taking into account context and circumstances. Discipline would be measured out according to the severity of the event, taking into consideration the Religion, age, physical and mental state of individuals and any other limiting factor patrons, students and parents of Stuart Public School may have.

Nothing in this policy is intended to make anyone go against their religious, political or social beliefs. Rather, Stuart Public School respectfully asks that the student, parent, or patron stand in respect of those who have given their life for our country.

Stuart Public School does not prohibit protest on non-instructional time, in general, but mandates that there is an appropriate time and place for students to voice their support of or opposition to national issues.

No, sorry, you don’t get to do that. The ACLU has already said it intends to sue the school district, but I’m afraid they may not find a plaintiff. This is a small, rural school district in a very right-wing state. Can you imagine the abuse that would be heaped on any student who agreed to be a plaintiff to challenge the policy? Death threats would be immediate and serious, I guarantee it. The family would need protection and is unlikely to get it from local law enforcement.

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