Litigation Ensues Over Student Athletes’ Refusal to Participate in National Anthem

By February 2, 2018 News No Comments

On December 21, 2017, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California granted a preliminary injunction in favor of a student who chose to kneel and/or leave the arena during the playing of the National Anthem at extracurricular events. This case involves a high school senior in California who, this fall, began taking a knee during the National Anthem. Shortly after the student’s decision to take a knee, the school district issued rules requiring students and coaches to stand during the National Anthem and began drafting Board Policies having a similar effect. If students or coaches did not stand during the National Anthem, they risked removal from the team.

The court granted a preliminary injunction in the student’s favor, holding that silent kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem amounts to protected speech. As a result of the preliminary injunction, the District is unable to implement its rules regarding standing during the National Anthem during the pendency of the court proceedings. The court applied the Tinker test, finding kneeling during the National Anthem was unlikely to cause a substantial disruption or interfere with other students’ rights.

For your questions on student speech rights, please contact Bennett Rodick or Kaitlin Atlas.

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