New York, NY, 10/10/2017- The National Coalition Against Censorship (NCAC) is warning public school officials against punishing students who silently protest during the national anthem.  The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the First Amendment protects similar protests.

President Donald Trump’s recent attacks on professional athletes who choose to kneel during the singing of the national anthem have encouraged restrictions on students conducting similar protests. In Louisiana, a superintendent of schools authorized principals to punish any student athlete protesting during a game.  In Texas, two students were kicked off their church-run football team for persisting in kneeling despite their coach’s ban.  Although the First Amendment only protects public school students, the punishment demonstrates a lack of respect for the importance of free speech.

The NCAC statement cites two Supreme Court cases that support the right of students to participate in non-disruptive forms of protest. In 1943, when the United States was at war, the Court declared that students may not be compelled to stand for or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  In 1969, it upheld the right of students to peacefully protest against the Vietnam War during school.

By banning or discouraging students from participating in protests against racial discrimination, police brutality and other important issues, schools not only violate their First Amendment rights but deny them the opportunity to join a national debate that can contribute to their civic education.

“Schools have a responsibility both to respect their students’ rights and to help them become active and informed citizens,” said Abena Hutchful, associate director of NCAC’s Youth Free Expression Program. “By banning students from quietly kneeling during the national anthem they fail to live up to either of these responsibilities.”

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