Kaepernick’s knee, Black Lives Matter fuel Atlanta school protests

Some Arabia Mountain High School football players were expected to take a knee during the Star Spangled Banner before their game Friday night against East Coweta High School in Sharpsburg.

Since Aug. 26, when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick chose not to stand during the singing of the national anthem, thousands have joined his protest for fair treatment amid growing outcry over police shootings involving black victims. This past week in metro Atlanta, students at one Gwinnett County stayed home from school to protest racially charged comments by classmates on social media and some students in Fulton County staged a sit-in amid rumors that an administrator told a student to remove a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. The assemblies have sparked discussions on appropriate protest methods, and whether school districts should weigh in.

Arabia Mountain’s principal contacted district administrators for guidance after receiving a request about some football players wanting to sit out the national anthem, DeKalb County School District officials said.

“We will not interfere with student activities as long as they are not disruptive and do not alter any uniforms in accordance with the rules from the Georgia High School Association,” the district said in a statement, adding that principals will receive guidance on designating space for protests. “The goal is not to interfere with the students’ constitutional right to freedom of speech.”

School district officials in Cobb and Clayton counties said they have had no protests as of yet. Clayton officials have taken no stance on the matter. Cobb County spokeswoman Donna Lowry said students may choose not to stand during the national anthem, so long as they’re not disruptive.

More than 100 student staged a sit-in at North Springs Charter School for Arts and Sciences late Friday morning after they heard a student was forced to remove a Black Lives Matter t-shirt. Freshman Deja Cruver said she received a mass text from other classmates saying the girl had brought shirts for others to wear to Friday’s football game.

The other shirts were taken, too, she said. In the text, it said the administrator told the students Black Lives Matter was a terrorist group, she said.

“People need to be treated equally,” Deja said.

Fulton County Schools spokeswoman Susan Hale said the interaction was just a rumor.

“This was not true,” she said. “We support our students’ freedom of expression as long as it does not create a school disruption.”

Brandis Sims, Deja’s mom, got emotional when talking about the protest by phone. She posted a video from the sit-in on her Facebook page Friday morning, saying students should be worried more about winning the night’s football game.

“It makes me a little sad because I feel like as a parent, you want to shield them from those kinds of things,” she said. “I’m happy though, that they’re aware of what’s going on. This is one of the first generations — not that they don’t see color because everybody sees color — where they don’t even really understand what’s going on. It’s confusion for them.”

In Lawrenceville, more than 850 students from Gwinnett County’s Archer High School were absent Friday, with students worried after students took to social media decrying the number of black students.

Extra security was in place as a precaution Friday morning. Officials reported no troubles. Students posted videos of a prayer circle that took place there.

“I think it important for you to know that we are aware of this situation and are working to address it with the student involved and his family,” the principal’s letter said, in part. “… We continue to talk to students and remain vigilant to ensure our school remains a safe, secure, and orderly place for all of our students.”

On Thursday, 75 to 100 Archer students staged a Pledge of Allegiance sit-in to draw attention what they believed was the school’s slow response to the incident. Friday’s prayer circle was a continuation of that effort.

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