The recent student athlete suspensions for kneeling during the National Anthem by faith based schools has provided public schools with a new tool to eliminate the need for school choice. Supposedly, this initiative is an option that proponents believe will help minority students get a better education. Public schools need to take this opportunity to reveal to minority parents that school choice is an option that they will regret in the long run.
Several faith based school systems have taken the position that students who kneel during the National Anthem will receive a consequence for their behavior. For example, in Long Island, the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which runs a private Catholic school system, said students at its three high schools could face “serious disciplinary action” if they knelt during the anthem before sporting events. According to Sean P. Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese, said that the letter, which was sent to principals, was intended to restate policy that the diocese already had in place.
In northwest Louisiana, Scott Smith, the superintendent of schools in Bossier Parish, said student athletes were expected to stand for the anthem. “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,” he said in a letter obtained by the New York Times.
In another incident, a Baptist team kicked two players off the team for kneeling during the National Anthem. Two Texas teenagers were kicked off their local football team for protesting during the national anthem prior to a Friday night game. Both players, who are cousins, chose to protest in different ways. Larry McCullough, 18, chose to kneel while his younger cousin, 16-year-old Cedric “CJ” Ingram Lewis, raised his fist in salute.
Many public schools refuse to participate in this format of institutionalized racism. For example, Monroe High School athletics director Greg Beyer told the Asbury Park Press that all four players who decided to kneel during the National Anthem informed Monroe head coach Dan Lee before the game that they intended to take a knee. “We have to follow what is in the (school district’s) policy,” Beyer said. “And pretty much the policy is if a kid doesn’t want to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, that’s his constitutional right, so we have to handle it (taking a knee during the playing of the anthem) the same exact way.
It has been surmised that public schools and private schools have different standards in regards to students rights. New Jersey requires public schools to have students salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance every school day. However, a 1942 Supreme Court case involving two Jehovah’s Witnesses expelled from school for refusing to recite the pledge ended with a landmark decision that said schools could not force anyone to salute the flag or say the pledge.
Students are permitted to sit respectfully during the Pledge of Allegiance if they have a moral or religious objection. However, they are not permitted to be disruptive. Additionally, a recent case where a Chicago student was forced by a teacher to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance resulted in the teacher being fired. In another case, a Native American student in California was permitted to switch classes after a teacher lowered her class participation grade for refusing to stand for the pledge.
Private schools do not have to follow the same rules as public schools in New Jersey. Private institutions, including Catholic schools, have the right to punish students for political speech if it violates school rules. The Diocese of Camden told its schools last year that any student who fails to stand for the National Anthem at a sporting event will be suspended for two games or dismissed from the team for repeated offenses. “The best approach is helping our young people understand that blood was sacrificed so that we all can enjoy the gifts of our faith and our country,” according to the letter sent to Diocese of Camden schools. “However, let me be clear. We are not public institutions and free speech in all of its demonstrations, including protests is not a guaranteed right.”
Herein lies the problem with school choice and private schools. Private schools have an opportunity to violate the political rights of students. In this case the majority of the students who will protest are Black because the protest centers of the injustices that Blacks have to faced in the United States.
What is the connection between school choice and faith based schools?
School choice is a term for K–12 public education options in the United States, describing a wide array of programs offering students and their families alternatives to publicly provided schools, to which students are generally assigned by the location of their family residence. In a traditional public education system, schools receive funding from the state on a per student basis. Under a school choice system, eligible students receive state funding which can be spent at whatever eligible private schools the parents choose for their children.
The problem with the school choice system is that the private schools that attain the state funding are not bound by the same laws as public schools. Private schools have an opportunity to utilize institutional racism to violate the rights of those whom they propose to serve. This can now become a sounding board for public schools that are becoming drained by the school choice option.
All the best,
Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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