El Paso

No policy regarding anthem protest at EPISD and YISD; districts respect freedom of speech

Anthem Protest

EL PASO, Texas - Taking a knee.

That's what some NFL athletes across the country did during the national anthem before games over the weekend.

The act of protest came after President Donald Trump called those who kneel "sons of (expletive)" and tweeted that NFL players who don’t stand during the anthem should be "fired."

ABC-7 wanted to know if school districts across El Paso are talking about the issue with their student athletes, and if districts have a policy on whether students can partake in similar protests.

Last year, an ABC-7 photographer took a photo of an athlete at Burges High School taking a knee during the national anthem. A few other athletes also kneeled during games, according to EPISD Athletic Director Maria Kennedy. This came soon after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem, citing racial injustice and police brutality. At the time, a spokesman from EPISD said the school respects the right of its students to exercise their freedom of expression.

Now, in wake of protests happening around the country, the school still stands by that decision. In a statement EPISD Spokesman Gustavo Reveles said: "The District as a practice respects students’ freedom of expression. We protect and respect the civil and constitutional rights of all students, as long as it doesn't infringe or harm the rights of others. 

Our students understand the importance of the national anthem and we know they have the information and awareness to make the choice that best suits their beliefs and the beliefs of their families."

Kennedy told ABC-7 after what happened over the weekend, she did have a coach reach out to her about the issue. 

She said the district does not have a policy and students will not be disciplined if they choose to kneel. 

"We just want to stand as a district," Kennedy said. "We honor the national anthem. We know what it stands for and we believe our students will understand that also." 

The Ysleta Independent School District also does not have a policy that addresses the issue. 

Head Football Coach at Del Valle High School Jesse Perales told ABC-7 he has talked about the issue with his team. 

"I haven't had any negative conversations about it but I've enjoyed our conversations with our guys," Perales said. "Our kids see what's on TV and see what's going on but none of them have expressed to me that they'd like to stay in the locker room or sit down." 

Perales said if a student did choose to kneel, "I would probably ask them why and see if I can help him figure out a different way, a better way, that's more of a team type thing." 

"Sunday, in the NFL, when (some teams) were all locked together arm-and-arm, I thought that was okay," Perales said. "It's better then sitting down and it's better then kneeling." 

Perales, however, said he believes everyone is entitled to their own opinion. 

"I just don't think it belongs there on the NFL field, especially during the national anthem, that's something that's very sacred to our country," he said. "But at the same time I see where it's coming from." 

A spokesman for the Socorro Independent School District also said their district does not have a policy regarding anthem protests. 

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