As schools gear up for weekend sports, some students are likely to echo the pros in sideline protest — whether by taking a knee during the national anthem, locking arms, or making another visible expression of their views.
With controversy swirling around President Trump’s critique of these actions, reactions from school officials, parents, and the wider community will undoubtedly vary, from total support to tolerance to disapproval and threats of discipline (about which, itself, there is robust debate). That’s to be expected, says educational ethicist Meira Levinson, who has written at length about the ethical dilemmas educators face when responding to controversy. Adults are weighing a spectrum of considerations and values — things like constitutional freedoms, political orientation, safety, and the emotional well being of students.
Here, Levinson elaborates on the issues at play for schools facing weekend #TakeAKnee protests. She also shares guidance and resources, below.
Understanding why students might protest:
People are making a decision to take a knee for a whole variety of reasons. It might be directly to protest racial injustice, racism, or police brutality. Or it may be actually none of those things; instead, athletes may be doing so in support of free speech rights, or in solidarity with those who are engaged in protest. And that solidarity may be political solidarity, or it may be the solidarity of friendship, of saying, “This matters to you, I recognize that you care deeply about this, and so I will be here to take a knee with you.”