Schools right to stand down if students take knee


The callers were indignant — and misinformed.

They were calling The Robesonian to express their displeasure over the news that Shanita Wooten, the superintendent of the Public Schools of Robeson County, had sent out a memo to educators reminding them that should it happen, students had the right to kneel, remain seated, buy popcorn — or pick their own form of protest — during the playing of the national anthem or the recitation of the “Pledge of Allegiance.”

The memo was sent in the wake of last week’s protest by dozens of NFL players whose ranks exploded after President Trump does what he does, uses Twitter to make bad situations worse while continuing to drive a wedge right through through the middle of America’s heart.

Callers complained that the school system was encouraging disrespect of the country, U.S. flag and, in particular, veterans past and present who have sacrificed so much for this country.

No, educators were following the law, and getting out in front of the situation — working aggressively to prevent embarrassment for the system, and worse, a potentially costly lawsuit.

The callers’ complaints shouldn’t be with Wooten or local school administrators, but with the Supreme Court, which settled this question in a 1943 ruling. The court found that making anyone stand for the “Pledge of Allegiance” amounts to “coerced” speech, and therefore is in violation of the First Amendment, which guarantees free speech, which is the right to speak up or remain silent, or to stand up or remain seated.

We understand and agree that students don’t carry with them into the classroom all constitutionally protects rights, which would including taking a match to a U.S. flag. That act of desecration is protected by the U.S. Constitution, but should a student try that in school, then a trip to the principal’s office would be warranted, as would harsh discipline.

That would be in clear violation of protesting in an “appropriate time and place,” which would not allow for endangering others. Remaining seated throughout the national anthem, however, doesn’t bring any risk beyond provoking anger.

Our guess is that soon enough, a protest will put the Public Schools of Robeson Count to the test, and Wooten’s memo better prepares educators to push aside their own beliefs and do the right thing, which mostly likely would be doing nothing.

And we realize that every word written about that possibility, adds to the chances it happens — and that includes a Page 1A story today putting in context the school system’s position, as well as this Our View.

If it happens and the outrage bounds forward, we hope it is well-aimed, and not at school officials for supposedly allowing it to happen. We aren’t even sure that any student who participates would be the correct target.

Respect for the national anthem, the U.S. flag, veterans, and all the cherished freedoms that this greatest of all nations provides is learned at home.

Or — and here is the real problem — not.

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