NCAC has sent a letter to a Florida school district that recently announced a new policy forbidding student-athletes from kneeling during the national anthem without parental permission. In late August, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem in order to protest recurring police shootings of African-Americans. Inspired by Kaepernick, student-athletes across the country are following his example.

NCAC’s letter to Collier County Public Schools explains why the new policy burdens students’ free speech rights. For example, some students will be unable to obtain parental permission and will therefore be forbidden from participating in protests. And by requiring written permission in advance, the policy essentially forbids spontaneous demonstrations.

Polices that prevent non-disruptive student protests, the letter underlines, undermines the educational process by impeding discourse on issues of national importance such as race relations and policing. Because many students not obtain parental permission to kneel, the District’s policy deprives students of the chance to observe and participate in thought-provoking symbolic speech.

Other districts in Florida have not imposed the same policy. Nearby Orange County, for instance, has explicitly stated that students do not need parental permission to kneel during the national anthem.

Student protests during patriotic rituals like the national anthem and the pledge of allegiance are becoming increasingly prevalent. Read our guide to this sort of protesting, including a timeline of events, for more information.

Read the full letter below; click here for a full screen view.

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