As so often happens, what our students see occurring in the world around them often transfers to school. They are easily influenced by the latest trend, the "coolest" thing and the celebrities in their lives. No doubt with several high profile athletes making a visual statement against racism by taking a knee during the national anthem some students will want to also take a knee. So how do we handle that as school administrators and local police?
Several school districts have already had their athletes take a knee on behalf of their concerns about racism and school administrators and local police have not always responded appropriately. During these types of passive protests it is best to review the landmark court case of Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District. In this decision the court held that
"students do not shed their constitutional right at the schoolhouse gate" unless their expression of speech disrupts, or is likely to disrupt, the educational process.
Most would agree that the momentary taking of a knee, while some may interpret as disrespectful or unpatriotic, is not a disruption to the educational process. After all lets remember they aren't standing up in the middle of Algebra class and reciting an essay on racism while the class is to be learning math, rather they are at a sporting event designed for entertainment and healthy competition. It would be hard to argue that the educational process is being compromised enough to violate someone's constitutional right.
While taking a knee is the latest form of passive protest there surely will be many others in years to come as our society, and school students, grapple with current affairs of our nation and world. It is always wise to pause and remember this landmark case before taking action. After all, free speech is a constitutional right that our students have and we should help them learn to exercise it in an appropriate way that will serve them well through life.
This is John Baker for safetysolutions4schools.com