Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, started a protest in 2016 by kneeling at a National Football League (NFL) game during the playing of the national anthem. He lost his job and his professional football career as a result of his protest, which was staged to bring attention to racial injustice in our country. Since then the protest has been taken up by many players, coaches, and across other sports venues into professional basketball and baseball.
At Pell City High School in Alabama, a female African-American student joined the protest movement by remaining in her seat during the Pledge of Allegiance. This prompted a week-long surge of racial unrest, according to Pell City Police Chief Paul Irwin. From AL.com:
‘A white male student got into a debate with the female student, which continued over social media and ultimately led to the male’s suspension from school for using profanity to toward the female.’
On Monday, several students showed up flying American Flags from their vehicles, which prompted one of the African-American students to post a photo of himself burning a flag on social media. Since the photo occurred off-campus and that student was disciplined by his parents, that matter was considered closed.
Until Wednesday, when an unidentified student posted:
‘Attention: All n—–s in pellcity (sic) we are warning you tomorrow is not a good day to come we are hanging everyone that comes our way tomorrow after school so I advice (sic) all of you to stay away from us or leave pellcity (sic) we can’t deal with you’re a–.’
As that post made the rounds on Instagram and Snapchat, the situation was monitored by police and school officials, who met with concerned parents on Thursday where Chief Irwin said:
‘There were parents expressing concerns about social media posts and what sparked controversy at the high school last week. We took all threats seriously, but there have been no incidents at any Pell City School.’
After the meeting with parents, the following post was put up on the Pell City Police Department Facebook page:
We have been at the High School all morning and there were parents expressing concerns about social media posts and what…
While they feel that they have the situation under control, Chief Irwin assures parents and members of the community that they are taking the threats seriously:
‘We are monitoring the situation and working with the state, the FBI and the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office to stop anyone from posting these threats toward our system.’
The only student identified was senior Kyle Ogden who spoke with a reporter from ABC33/40 News:
‘It was brought up in class about the NFL player situation that’s going on with them kneeling at the national anthem. I said some things I probably should not have said. Mainly my language that I used. I was in no way trying to be offensive towards anyone.’
Ogden has been the only student punished so far, and that was specifically for the language he chose to use, not for his opinion on the issue of standing during the anthem or Pledge of Allegiance, as stated by Pell City High School principal, Tony Dowdy:
‘… Dowdy told ABC 33/40 dealing with a national debate in school can be challenging, but they’re not punishing anyone for having an opinion.
‘Dowdy said the goal is to make sure discussions don’t create disturbances.’
This debate is not over as racial injustice in this country is still prevalent, but it is hoped that the potential for violence has been stopped and replaced with productive discussion of the issue.
Video coverage from ABC 33/40:
Featured image from ABC 33/40 video