Thirty-four schools in Bossier Parish, La., ranging from elementary to high school, have been encouraged by the district superintendent to require student-athletes to stand while the national anthem plays at school-sponsored events.
On Thursday, Intercept reporter Shaun King shared a memo from Parkway High School principal Waylon Bates, which read, “Parkway High School requires student-athletes to stand in a respectful manner throughout the National Anthem during any sporting event in which their team is participating. Failure to comply will result in loss of playing time and/or participation as directed by the head coach and principal.”
In a statement to The Huffington Post, Bossier Parish superintendent Scott Smith said, “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. 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.”
According to Smith, the final decision will be left to individual school principals and their coaching staff. The district administration is determined to honor those decisions.
Schools at the high-school level and lower have felt pressured to take a public stance following the recent mass protests by NFL players, coaches and owners across the nation. The White House has also released a few strongly-worded comments.
While some districts, such as Bossier Parish, have seen fit to unilaterally condemn the practice of kneeling on the field, other administrations have taken a more tolerant view, even going so far as to contradict coaches who promised consequences for players who engaged in the protests.
On Tuesday, West Creek (Tenn.) High School head football coach James Figueroa gave an interview to The Tennessean, saying, “We are not giving our kids the option to kneel. It’s not going to be an option. This is what our expectations are at West Creek High.”
Upon learning of the coach’s comments, the Clarksville Montgomery School District quickly debunked the statement. District spokesperson Elise Shelton told the Huffington Post, “[Figueroa] has been counseled about it. It’s federal law and [a student’s] right to do what they see fit. We weren’t aware of that till we saw it in the paper.”
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