Court Rules California High School Athlete Can’t Be Forced to Stand for Anthem

Compulsary

Compulsory Anthem PolicyWhen a  football player at San Pasqual Valley High School near El Centro kneeled during the game’s national anthem, his school district ordered the high school student to stand rather than protest racial injustice and police shootings of unarmed people of color.

In a victory for that high school student and for all advocates of non-violent political speech inspired by the kneeling football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Glendale-based law firm Bush Gottlieb persuaded a federal court to enjoin the school district from banning kneeling during high school games.

In a victory for that high school student and for all advocates of non-violent political speech inspired by the kneeling football quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Glendale-based law firm Bush Gottlieb persuaded a federal court to enjoin the school district from banning kneeling during high school games.

The Court in holding that the policy likely violated the First Amendment, noted that “schools may regulate students’ speech in some limited circumstances”, but declared that “public school students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.” The Court ruled that students “cannot be punished merely for expressing their personal views on the school premises – whether in the cafeteria, or on the playing field, or on the campus during the authorized hours.”

“We are pleased with this outcome”, said Katie Traverso, a Bush Gottlieb attorney who argued for Plaintiff in court. “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. We look forward to the District’s acceptance of this ruling, and toward an amicable final resolution to the litigation.”

The student football player, a Native American identified in the lawsuit as “V.A.” to maintain his privacy, had kneeled without incident during the national anthem at a San Pasqual home game, in protest of racial injustice in America. The school district, reacting to a later incident in which a Mayer, Arizona high school student group hurled racial epithets at San Pasqual students after a second football game in which V.A. kneeled, issued a directive ordering its students to stand during the playing of the anthem, and prohibiting them from kneeling or engaging in any protest.

After the School District rejected informal requests to rescind its Compulsory Anthem Policy (“CAP”), the student, represented by the Glendale, California law firm of Bush Gottlieb, sued for violation of V.A.’s constitutional right to free speech in the federal District Court for the Southern District of California, on December 8, and the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the enforcement of the CAP on December 12.

Marcy WinogradOn December 21, after consideration of the District’s written and oral arguments, and those of Plaintiff’s attorneys, the District Court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining the District from restricting students from kneeling or sitting during the playing or singing of the National Anthem, and from requiring any action from students during that time.

Marcy Winograd
(wife of Ira “Buddy” Gottlieb, one of the lawyers who persuaded the court).

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