An Ohio school district announced over the weekend that it won’t stop student athletes protesting police brutality from kneeling during the national anthem.
According to the Akron Beacon Journal, two Barberton High School students have been kneeling during the national anthem ahead of their basketball games in a “national push for policing reform.”
Barberton City School District said in a Saturday statement that it has “been hearing a lot of thoughts and feedback from our community members” on the issue, but claimed Ohio and federal law compels the district to protect the free speech rights of the students guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution.
“We are aware of the Barberton High School student-athletes who have chosen not to stand during the pre-game playing of the United States National Anthem. The Barberton City School District supports every student’s right to free speech, as protected by the United States Constitution and supported by Ohio Revised Code,” district leaders said in a statement posted to Facebook.
They pointed to Ohio Revised Code 3313.602, which states that “a school district cannot compel an act of patriotism on the part of a student.” A 1943 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that “students may not be required to salute the American flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance at public schools,” the district said.
“While many people may not share this student’s point of view, as a public school district we are proud of all of our students who are learning important lessons about life that public schools are uniquely suited to teach—that people can hold different beliefs and can still coexist, get along, and even work together toward common goals,” the district concluded its statement.
The district’s statement has already received 801 comments, 111 shares, and 270 reactions since it was released Saturday morning. Barberton is located in the northeast corner of the state in Ohio’s 13th Congressional District, which is represented by Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan.
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