Richmond County Board of Educations decides against pursuing policy to suspend student athletes for national anthem protests

The Richmond County Board of Education has refrained from taking action on a controversial proposal that called for suspensions for student athletes and band members who kneel during the national anthem while in uniforms bought by the school.
The Richmond County Board of Education has refrained from taking action on a controversial proposal that called for suspensions for student athletes and band members who kneel during the national anthem while in uniforms bought by the school.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)- The Richmond County Board of Education has refrained from taking action on a controversial proposal that called for suspensions for student athletes and band members who kneel during the national anthem while wearing school-bought uniforms.

The proposal was suggested at last month’s board meeting, but superintendent Angela Pringle suggested holding off on making a decision until this month’s meeting so that they could do more research on the idea and its potential consequences. Pringle and the board’s legal counsel, Leonard Fletcher, presented their findings to the board, which then took no action on the proposal.

A few months ago, NFL quarterback sparked a national debate when he refused to stand during the national anthem at football games.

That protest trickled down to some high school games, and some members of the Richmond County Board of Education wanted to make sure that didn’t happen here, specifically while athletes and band members were representing the district by wearing the uniforms their constituents bought.

“As long as they’re a student, that’s all they are. They’ve got the right to do it, but they don’t have a right to do it in our uniforms,” said board member Jack Padgett.

Last month, a proposal that would suspend uniformed student and athletes and band members for refusing to stand during the national anthem was tossed around a board meeting. But Superintendent Angela Pringle requested the vote be put on hold so she could research the issue and potential consequences.

Tuesday night, she presented what she and the board’s legal counsel found.

“Any disruption created by the protests can be addressed through the student code of conduct,” Pringle said.

Specifically, Rule 1A, which references disruption or interference with school.

“In reviewing the research on the First Amendment and other school districts and their actions, we feel that that the student code of conduct enables us latitude and the capacity to address students where protests do become disruptive. Otherwise, they’re teachable moments,” she said.

After being presented with pertinent case law and a review of current school policies, the board took no action on the proposal.

“I think the research that Dr. Pringle did was very proper, and I think it gave us a lot more information than we’d had previously,” Padgett said.

NewsChannel 6 spoke with a parent who says she appreciates the debate this started by this controversy.

“It is absolutely a teachable moment,” said Monique Braswell, who has two sons who play sports for Richmond County schools. “It’s time when parents can talk to their children as to why they’re doing it. Do they understand…so it is a teachable moment.”

The board’s decision not to pursue the proposal means that protests will be addressed on a case-by-case basis when they break the code of conduct.

It’s not clear that kneeling during the national anthem has even been very widespread in Richmond County. Fletcher says he’s only heard of two instances of this type of protest, and board president Helen Minchew says she believes the issue will soon pass.

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