By Tommy DeSeno
When NFL players break the nationwide community standard we codified on how to act during the National Anthem (and obscuring their cause in the process), they unfortunately influence the fecund minds of children who mimic them. So now we have children as young as eight disrespecting America’s flag at football games.
Students’ actions in and out of school today are judged against a school bullying policy. So worried a child may suffer the modern communicable disease called “triggering,” punishments are meted out for hurt feelings or perceived incivility toward another’s unknowable conscience or identity.
That’s not to demean bullying policies as a whole. Bullying can be brutal and schools are obligated along with parents to stop it.
Yet for some reason, these zero-tolerance bullying policies have not been applied to disrespecting Americans, nor the discomfort it may bring children who love their country and flag or have a family member serving in the military.
If students banded together in a planned show of disrespect for a Mexican flag, or a rainbow flag, you’d better believe they’d be punished for an inclusiveness violation. Try objecting to political Islam by saying you have no respect for it and see if a suspension for bigotry doesn’t follow. Yet the left hugs First Amendment language like an endangered tree when it comes to disrespecting the American flag. By a fair application of rules and laws, American should no more be a target for bullying than any other nationality.
In 2010 the Department of Justice began studying bullying in school based upon “national origin” and other differences. That’s no surprise. There’s been a federally recognized prohibition against discriminating against national origin since the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The federal government’s website dedicated to eradicating direct and indirect bullying noted this example of prohibited conduct from North Carolina: “Bullying or harassing behavior includes … acts … motivated by any actual or perceived differentiating characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin,…”
Bullying of this kind is frequent. A 2017 New York survey of middle and high school students showed that 65 percent of respondents said bullying occurred because of “race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or citizenship/immigration status.”
National origin is the country from whence one comes or holds citizenship. Is American a national origin? Is it a “differentiating characteristic” worthy of protection like any other? Of course, it is. No bullying policy has an exception that allows bullying American children.
So what does the federal government do with a local bullying incident? The Justice Department actually intervenes, as they did in a case to force a school to use their bullying policy to help an LGBT student. The Justice Department explained the school’s infraction:
“The School District knew of the harassment … neither fully investigated the allegations, nor followed its anti-harassment policies and procedures. The failure to address and prevent this kind of bullying from occurring violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
Not only does school bullying policies forbid insults to national origin, but schools being government entities, the Justice Department can force the school to use its adopted bullying policies. Let’s examine how a recent real-life incident of anthem kneeling could still play out.
On September 28, football players at Monroe Township High School (NJ) kneeled during the national anthem. Two referees walked off in protest leaving the legitimacy of the game in doubt. Only the refs were punished, being suspended for the rest of the season.
Monroe has an anti-bullying policy. In pertinent part, it defines and prohibits as follows:
“Harassment, intimidation, or bullying means any gesture … motivated by either any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression; that … has the effect of insulting or demeaningany student or group of students.”
What should happen next is a parent of any American student insulted by the planned gesture of disrespect for Americanism should demand the school enforce Monroe’s anti-bullying policy and discipline the kneelers. If the school doesn’t act, the parents not only have a private right of action to sue the school under Title IX, they can have the Justice Department intervene to enforce their child’s rights. The penalties for the school can range anywhere from monetary damages to loss of funding.
While a defense of First Amendment rights will be asserted, that defense is defeated in every case where bullying words are proscribed by the school bullying policy, as the school has a compelling state interest to prevent bullying.
Normally, I don’t encourage making a federal case out of school disciplinary matters, but if the left keeps jumping us and starting rumbles in the culture war, we have to take their own weapons to use against them.