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SEB High School Cheerleaders Claim 1A Violations Over National Anthem Protest Controversy

A handful of cheerleaders from Southeast Bulloch (SEB) High School in Brooklet say their First Amendment rights were violated when school administrators held them back from participating in the national anthem during a football game after they announced that they planned not to participate and would instead make a statement.

A handful of cheerleaders from Southeast Bulloch (SEB) High School in Brooklet say their First Amendment rights were violated when school administrators held them back from participating in the national anthem during a football game after they announced that they planned not to participate and would instead make a statement.

SEB cheerleader Sydney Williams made a post on Facebook Saturday, saying she and a few other cheerleaders wanted to ‘step back and hold hands with each other in solidarity against the unjust killing of black lives in America.” Williams said cheerleaders were given the ‘OK’ by coaches and SEB Principal Stephen Hoyle, who allegedly offered alternative protest methods and stated the statement as planned would be ‘controversial.’ That changed as the squad planned to head out on the field, but was told cheerleaders would no longer be on the field for the anthem.

Saying the decision ‘goes against [their] first amendment rights, Williams said,”We feel that this is 100% unfair and that our school is trying to silence us…I understand that we go to a predominantly white school in a predominantly white town, but that does not mean take away something we hold very close to our hearts, just to please the fans.”

You can read her post in its entirety below.

 

The post garnered attention quickly and was shared by activists in the community who vocalized their support for the students. Some suggested seeking legal counsel while others said they hoped parents and attendees would support the cheerleading squad’s effort.

A few of the comments on the circulating post are below.

 

While students don’t forfeit their First Amendment rights entirely while on school property, the courts have routinely held that school administrators may limit speech when it is lewd or can be disruptive. The statement as planned was not a lewd one and it would be on school administrators to make the case for disruptive behavior.

The U.S. Supreme Court has had this issue before it a number of times, balancing the free speech rights of students against the legitimate need of school officials to maintain a safe, functional, and productive environment.

The threshold also presents the issue in three prongs:

  1. Does the school have the authority to limit speech of students at athletic events in this manner?
  2. If the school does have the authority, does that mean school administrators should limit speech in this context?
  3. Was speech of students actually limited (or was there a First Amendment violation)?

The first question would rely on what is defined as ‘disruptive’ and how the school administrators feel the ‘disruption’ would be noticeable. The courts have held that the disruption does not actually have to occur and that school officials can act preemptively.

The second question would be a matter of public opinion and one which would rely heavily on the input school officials receive in the wake of this story.

The third question yields a more concrete answer, according to the courts. Where the cheerleaders may face issue is the lack of a right to be on the field in the first place. Had the cheerleaders gone onto the field, taken a knee and been punished, or been forced to stand during the anthem, a more blatant disregard for Constitutional protections would be identifiable. Using the standard established in the 1969 SCOTUS case Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Comm. Sch. Dist., school officials would most likely face a high standard in establishing how the planned act by the cheerleaders would be disruptive at the time of the act. But school administrators are not prohibited from limiting cheerleader time on the field or prohibiting the attendance in the official capacity as cheerleaders entirely.

SEB’s decision Friday is in line with the policies instituted by many public universities, including Kennesaw State University, which made national headlines two years ago when cheerleaders took a knee during the anthem.

Of course, none of the legal precedent established or policies elsewhere preclude students from seeking legal counsel or advocating for a different decision by school administrators for future athletic events.

How do you think the school administrators should handle it?

Jessica Szilagyi is a Statewide Contributor for AllOnGeorgia.com. She focuses primarily on state and local politics as well as issues in law enforcement. She has a background in Political Science with a focus in local government and has a Master of Public Administration from the University of Georgia. Jessica is a "Like It Or Not" contributor for Fox5 in Atlanta and has two blogs of her own: The Perspicacious Conservative and "Hair Blowers to Lawn Mowers."

16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ann Rowland

    September 5, 2020 at 10:28 pm

    When I attended that school my principal Tom Bigwood would not have tolerated any kind of disruption in any form at any school event. I think that everyone is afraid to stand up to anyone that thinks their feelings are hurt. I support the principal in his decision. She was a great school back in the 80’s but too many people have their hands in the cookie jar. Politics are ruling everything these days. Glad that I moved before anyone had a chance to influence my children and grandchildren. Shit don’t happen here in Texas where we live you have rules and kids have to follow them.

  2. Avatar

    Darwin Fordham

    September 5, 2020 at 11:01 pm

    I agree with the girls wanting to show their feelings, But, my question is, what has this got to do with America’s National Anthem?

  3. Avatar

    Gigi

    September 5, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    The school administration is in charge of procedures and policies on campus. The cheerleaders are there to support the team and involve the fans in support of the team. That’s it!

  4. Avatar

    melissa

    September 6, 2020 at 2:20 am

    I as a parent want to thank the school for taking this action! Children do not understand the full grasp of their actions in doing things of this nature. That action could have caused the focus to be taken away from why we were there to watch a football game not see their opinions . We paid for a football game ticket and we were pleased with the outcome.
    Go yellow jackets
    Thank you Stephen hoyle for the RIGHT DECISION

  5. Avatar

    Michelle

    September 6, 2020 at 10:44 am

    I think the school administrator was exactly on point. I was at the game. I bought a ticket for the game and I went there with my family to watch the football player play football. If the cheerleaders had of went out and taken a knee in protest my whole family would have walked out and demanded our money back. What these kids need to be focused von is their school work and working toward their education and their future.

  6. Avatar

    ImGladIGraduatedFromThere

    September 6, 2020 at 11:23 am

    These aren’t “children”. They are young adults who definitely have a grasp of what’s going on. They are in high school for christ sake. Once you’re introduced to politics, world studies, and or black history, you can put your input in as well. They should be able to express themselves without grown ass adult being controlling on every single move. They came to them like adults, conversed and came to an understanding like adult yet still get treated like kids when the actual adults in this situation just mad because no one wanted to listen to their alternatives. I’ve been to this school and it’s as stubborn as they come but with all of this going on, they could of at least have them this. They weren’t going to be disruptive nor planned on it.

  7. Avatar

    Chris Owens

    September 6, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    I am for the cheerleaders in this. They are young adults that are learning how to use their voices. At school they learn about government and how to work with it. They are putting their knowledge to good use. They had taken all necessary steps to make sure that what they were planning was ok with the administration. They got the go-ahead and then without having the decency to talk to them about a change, their voices were silenced. I cheer for the cheerleaders.

  8. Avatar

    Eric

    September 6, 2020 at 8:11 pm

    Good protest somewhere else if you don’t like the United States. Oh and they should pay the fine out of their own pocket

  9. Avatar

    Louise Williams

    September 6, 2020 at 8:43 pm

    That is not the proper forum. Totally support the school. We ALL have rights what about the people at the game that take offense at the kneeling or arm holding? The flag and anthem still mean representation of this great country. Many soldiers have died to defend it and many still do fight for this country leaving their families behind. It is because of them you have rights!!! If you don’t want to support it find a forum with conversation to change things. Stop infringing on Americans rights to salute and sing the national anthem. Getting on your knee or holding arms changes nothing. It brings division and is insulting! For those of us who support this country how about we get a lawyer for our rights!!! Again this solves nothing!!! SEB stick to your policies. For the “silent protestors” get an appropriate forum for your concerns.

  10. Avatar

    Hector Gamez

    September 7, 2020 at 2:05 pm

    I’m hoping that I live in one of the last holdouts where the schools are still in charge.

  11. Avatar

    Tim Carlton

    September 7, 2020 at 4:15 pm

    Georga White trash. No wonder you people are poor and stupid.

  12. Avatar

    Mose

    September 7, 2020 at 5:02 pm

    So they’re upset for being unable to participate in something they didn’t want to participate in?? Well that makes complete sense!
    By all means, it is well within their rights to take a knee or stand silently for the Anthem. However, if they were planning on making a speech or statement explaining their cause directly before or after the Anthem, then that is NOT allowed. If they wish to make speeches, there is an appropriate time and place for this. Unfortunately, at a school event with spectators, during the National Anthem, it was malapropos.

  13. Avatar

    Donna Smith

    September 7, 2020 at 5:34 pm

    I agree with the schools choice on this one. That football game is not the place for you to come out and push your feelings or personal beliefs on others. It’s disrespectful to everyone that was there. This was a family gathering not ment for political and personal views. You got something to say, hold a rally and say it. Don’t take this kind of event to push your feelings or views on others.

  14. Avatar

    Georgia Lady

    September 9, 2020 at 12:28 am

    Amen to Donna…… You said it better than anyone could. I’m sick of these anarchists trying to force everyone to agree to their sick plans to destroy our country. The young people don’t even realize just what kind of twisted, demented culture they are buying into. History has been rewritten for them, and they’ve been fed lies. Unfortunately, it is a sad truth that those who do know and learn from history are doomed to repeat it !!! look at what happened in Germany …… the people were promised utopia and got a living hell ! ! !

  15. Avatar

    Georgia Lady

    September 9, 2020 at 12:40 am

    Amen to Donna…… You said it better than anyone could. I’m sick of these anarchists trying to force everyone to agree to their sick plans to destroy our country. The young people don’t even realize just what kind of twisted, demented culture they are buying into. History has been rewritten for them, and they’ve been fed lies. Unfortunately, it is a sad truth that those who do know and learn from history are doomed to repeat it !!! look at what happened in Germany …… the people were promised utopia and got a living hell ! ! ! By the way, high school students / teenagers are far from being even “young adults”. Wisdom and logic go hand in hand with adulthood ….. The part of the human brain that controls logic is not even fully developed until humans are between 25 to 30 ! ! ! Fact of science, anatomy & physiology, human growth & development, etc, etc. Ask a specialist in neuropsychology and a neurologist and a psychologist dealing with teen age thru to about thiry five. It’s a real eye opener !

  16. Avatar

    Georgia Lady

    September 9, 2020 at 12:42 am

    …. thirty five …

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