Intercept - Since NFL 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in August to protest oppression of people of color, many Americans, particularly professional athletes and students, have followed suit. But their constitutional right to engage in such gestures of dissent is not always being respected.
Threats from school administrators and teachers have put free speech advocates like the ACLU on high alert. At Lely High School, a public school in Naples, Florida, the principal told students that they would be removed from athletic events if they refused to stand during the national anthem — though he said the quote was misunderstood when the ACLU of Florida reached out.
“The Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that public schools may not constitutionally force students to salute the flag,” Lee Rowland, a First Amendment attorney who works with the ACLU, told The Intercept. “That ruling is crystal clear about a student’s right not to be compelled into patriotism by their government, and it is over 70 years old.”
The ruling that Rowland references came after many Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States began to refuse to salute the flag in solidarity with their brethren in Nazi Germany who were being arrested for refusing to salute that country’s fascist flag.
.... Students at private schools do not enjoy the same constitutional protections. The Diocese in Camden, New Jersey, which oversees six local private Catholic schools, will punish student athletes who do not stand during the national anthem by suspending them for two games. In a letter, the organization wrote, “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. 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.”