Students in Kansas' largest school district won't be disciplined for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance or national anthem, administrators say.
The guidance was issued to principals in the Wichita school district this week after President Donald Trump lashed out at NFL players for not standing during the anthem. The kneeling protests started last year as a statement against the killings of unarmed black men and boys at the hands of police.
Gil Alvarez, assistant superintendent of secondary schools, said in an email that students who object to participating "will be excused upon the student's oral or written request," The Wichita Eagle reports. The email says students excused from participation "shall silently remain seated (or kneel in quiet reflection) during the exercise by other students."
While no discipline will be ordered "for merely refusing to participate in or not standing," it can be considered "if any student disrupts (this does not mean sitting or kneeling quietly) other students or the class during the pledge of allegiance or national anthem" the email said.
Alvarez acknowledged in the email that "we all have our own beliefs on this matter" but that "whether you agree or disagree, these are the guidelines set forth by the district and we will follow these guidelines."
Susan Arensman, spokeswoman for the Wichita district, said Alvarez sent the email to remind administrators of procedures that have been in place since at least 1994. Schools have not reported a notable increase in protests, she said.
"This is not a new thing," she said. "Because of what students may be seeing nationally, if a student decides to silently protest, this was more of a, 'Let's make sure everything is consistent.'"
Courts have ruled in the past that schools can't force students to say the Pledge of Allegiance.