||| Michael Dwyer |||
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California ruled that an Imperial County high school football player must be allowed to kneel during the singing of the national anthem. The federal court also said that he cannot be ordered by his school to stand for the performances.
The ruling flies in the face of rules set by the San Pasqual Valley Unified School District that prohibited "kneeling, sitting or similar forms of political protest" at athletic events and requires students and coaches to "stand and remove hats/helmets … during the playing or singing of the National Anthem."
The school district enacted the policy when students from a rival high school in Arizona yelled racial slurs at San Pasqual Valley High School students and one of the rival players at the center of the controversy refused to stand for the anthem.
The player, who was identified in the court records only as "V.A." and described as Native American, was protesting racial injustice in the U.S. and mimicking NFL players who started the kneeling during the anthem trend.
The NFL players sparked a national debate over whether the athletes should be allowed to protest and express their grievances during the national anthem. Those who criticized the protests say the actions disrespected veterans and the flag.
Players at Mayer High School in Spring Valley, Arizona who were mostly white were upset by the athlete's gesture and yelled racial slurs at fans and players from San Pasqual Valley High School District, a mostly Native American and Latino.
One student from Mayer High School even sprayed a water bottle at a San Pasqual Valley student getting a cheerleader wet. The incident concerned school officials were enacted the new police previously mentioned.
Now, the federal court granted a preliminary injunction stopping the school from implementing its rules citing that they violated V.A.'s 1st Amendment right to political expression. V.A.’s attorneys are now seeking a permanent injunction. Schools only have the authority to curb speech when the expressions threaten to disrupt a school's educational mission, according to the ruling.
Katie Traverso, the plaintiff's attorney, said of the victory, "We are pleased with this outcome. Students like our client who conscientiously carry their values and ideals with them, cannot be silenced or directed on what to say or not say by their school in this manner."
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