ACLU of La.: ‘patently unconstitutional’ for schools to punish students who ‘take a knee’

NEW ORLEANS – The ACLU of Louisiana is issuing a warning to schools in Louisiana that are threatening to punish students who sit or “take a knee” during the National Anthem.

Punishing students for either action is a violation of First Amendment rights enshrined in the Constitution and backed up by Supreme Court decisions, according to ACLU of Louisiana executive director Marjorie Esman.

The reminder to school comes after Bossier Parish School District and Parkway High School threatened to punish student athletes who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the National Anthem, Esman said.

“Bossier Parish is threatening to punish students for peacefully protesting racial injustice and taking a principled for freedom and equality,” she said. “This is antithetical to our values as Americans and a threat to students’ constitutional rights.”

The issue has been settled in favor of protecting the students’ freedom of expression for quite a while, according to Esman.

“Nearly 75 years ago, the Supreme Court rightly held that state schools have no business forcing students to stand for patriotic rituals,” she said. “The Court also reminded public school administrators that part of their job is to train students for participation in our free society. This principle holds no less true today, and no less true on the playing field than it does in the classroom. Schools have no valid interest in turning their students into mouthpieces of government speech, full stop. Indeed, schools should respect students who embrace their constitutional rights and stand up to injustice – not punish them. And it would be patently unconstitutional for the school to do so.”