With liberty and justice for all?

Kaepernick protests influence students to not stand for the pledge

Has America lost sight of true patriotism?

Students around the country are remaining seated during the pledge of allegiance. This can be attributed to 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who refused to stand for the national anthem during playoffs. The Fanscotian believes that no student should be denied their First Amendment rights, and should be able to respectfully express themselves without borders.

The First Amendment of the Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

To summarize, the First Amendment denies the government the power to create legislation that limits the expression or creation of religions, free speech, information provided by the press, and the ability to protest in groups or address governmental concerns and to assemble.

The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Board of Education’s current policy concerning the pledge of allegiance requires each school to conduct the pledge on a daily basis in their opening exercises, although it allows students to be exempted if the pledge conflicts with their conscience. Our district provides students with a choice.  

Some school districts, however, are not as lenient as the SPF school district. Leilani Thomas, a student from Lower Lake, California, was penalized for refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance. As punishment, her teacher lowered her grades. Thomas has been sitting for the pledge since second grade,but  it was not until this past September that her high school expressed a problem with her silent protest.

 

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artwork by Sydney Mills

Similar to Thomas, 15 year-old Shemar Cooper, a student from Chicago, faced off  with a teacher who attempted to force him out of his seat when he refused to stand for the pledge while voicing the opinion that “America sucks,” and “doesn’t support black people.”

SPFHS students refuse to stand for the pledge for their own unique reasons. Some agree with Kaepernick, who expresses that he does not “stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.”

Other students decide not to sit, simply because they demonstrate apathy to the pledge.

I think protests are a good way to bring a change in the country,” president of the Black Student Union Kenyela Horn said. “Because when many people protest, that is when many people start to listen.”                                                                                         

A recurring question in considering these student protests is whether it is patriotic or not to stand. “Patriotism, in my definition, is showing pride for your country or what you believe in, and identifying and working to resolve problems as well to make your country better,” a student said when asked to define patriotism in an anonymous survey given to homeroom classes.

The same student cited Kaepernick and his kneeling protest as an example of patriotism.

Some would say that Kaepernick’s protests are harmful to American patriotism.  “Many critics say that his protest is ‘disgraceful’ and ‘disrespectful,’” Black Student Union advisor Tashira Wheeler said. “I feel that Mr. Kaepernick has a right to his beliefs and his right to protest.”

American patriotism encompasses the idea that all Americans have the natural right to voice their opinions. Students who were inspired by Kaepernick’s protest have the right to follow suit and do so without facing consequences for sitting down for what they believe in. Opponents of the protests should try to understand where protesters are coming from and respect their opinion.