Students have rights

CFI is explaining to public school administrators about the First Amendment. It’s kind of pathetic that such administrators have to have it explained to them.

The Center for Inquiry challenged two high schools in Louisiana, as well as the administrators of public schools and public school athletics, to cease recent policies that fringe on the First Amendment rights of students.

In a joint letter from a broad swath of the secular movement, CFI told Waylon Bates, principal of Parkway High School, as well as others in charge of school policies in Louisiana, that threatening to discipline student athletes for protesting during the National Anthem is unconstitutional. CFI demanded retraction of the threat as well as a commitment that organized prayer would no longer be permitted at high school football games.

Bates, with the support of Scott Smith, the superintendent of Bossier Parish Schools, had informed his student athletes they would be disciplined if they were to follow the lead of so many professional athletes who recently protested during the National Anthem.

The Supreme Court has long held that schools may not compel student participation in patriotic displays against their will. In West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, the highest court invalidated a law requiring public school students to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or face discipline.

“Students don’t shed their First Amendment rights at the schoolhouse gate,” said Nick Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel, and one of the signatories to the letter. “Nor do they abandon those rights by putting on a football helmet. Students may not be compelled to be patriotic, and our courts have long recognized that.”

A better way to get students to be patriotic would be for the nation to be a better nation. Right now it’s a horror of a nation.

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