Bossier schools superintendent issues statement on district's stance on national anthem

Published: Sep. 27, 2017 at 3:10 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2017 at 6:28 AM CDT
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BOSSIER PARISH, LA (KSLA) - Bossier public schools Superintendent Scott Smith released a statement Wednesday morning about proper decorum for the national anthem.

The statement was released in the wake of several NFL teams kneeling during pregame performances of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

In sharing the statement, Bossier School District spokeswoman Sonja Bailes said: "Bossier Schools is proud to be part of a parish where the vast majority of our citizens are proud to live in a patriotic community that supports its military and shows reverence when our national anthem is played at sporting events and other times."

Following is Smith's statement:

Freedom is not free. Each day the men and women at Barksdale Air Force Base and in other branches of the military in Bossier Parish and throughout the nation don a uniform and put their lives at risk as they proudly serve and protect us with honor. The least Bossier Schools can do is expect our student athletes to stand in solidarity when the National Anthem is played at sporting events in honor of those sacrifices.

In Bossier Parish, we believe when a student chooses to join and participate on a team, the players and coaches should stand when our National Anthem is played in a show of respect. This extends to those that elect to join a club or student organization, which requires a faculty sponsor. It is a choice for students to participate in extracurricular activities, not a right, and we at Bossier Schools feel strongly that our teams and organizations should stand in unity to honor our nation's military and veterans.

This district directive was derived after seeking input from all Bossier Parish middle and high school principals in light of the national conversation currently taking place. Our principals and their coaching staffs have sole discretion in determining consequences should a student athlete elect not to stand during the National Anthem and they are making their expectations known to players and their families this week. As Superintendent, my administration will be in full support of these school-based decisions.

Our district stance is reflective of the values held not only at Bossier Schools, but throughout our great parish. The vast majority of our citizens are proud to live in a patriotic community that supports its military and shows deep respect and reverence toward our active duty military and veterans.

It is an honor for Bossier Schools to pay homage to the American flag and stand during the National Anthem. May we never take that for granted.

Scott Smith
Superintendent of Bossier Schools

After Bailes shared Smith's statement via email, some people replied.

"I am posting on Facebook this excellent decision by the Bossier Parish School System leadership in support of appropriate behavior regarding our national anthem and our flag," District 8 Bossier Police Juror Doug Rimmer wrote. "Congratulations and commendations to you as we all seek to instill patriotism and respect in our young people.  As a twig is bent, so grows the tree!"

Sandy M. Cimino, senior vice president of business development at Community Bank of Louisiana, said: "I have also passed it on. I am so proud of Bossier Parish School System."

Following the BPSD issued its statement, Caddo Parish Public Schools released a statement:

It is the policy and procedure of Caddo Parish Public Schools and the Caddo Parish School Board to allow students and staff to practice their First Amendment rights as long as that practice does not impede on the ability of others to practice their beliefs.

In Caddo schools, we will allow students to participate in play as long as their protest remains peaceful, civil, and does not affect any individual's ability to participate in the National Anthem should they choose.

Also Wednesday morning, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards made the following statement on a radio talk show:

"The national anthem and the American flag are symbols of freedom and should unite all of us, despite our differences.

"Having served our country in the military, I will always choose to stand for the national anthem and encourage others to do likewise. 

"We recognize that our fellow citizens have a First Amendment right to express these sentiments. That said, it seems to me there are more effective ways to go about it. 

"I would hope that, as a nation, individuals on both sides of this issue can come together and work to do better.

“In the meantime, the state must continue to meet its contractual obligations with the Saints. We will work with the Legislature and other officials to ensure complete transparency as to what those obligations are.”

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