The “take a knee” movement gained momentum after President Donald Trump told NFL team owners to fire players who kneel during pre-game national anthem.
Since the comments, scores of people came out in support of the players and took a knee in solidarity. A high school teacher in California also decided to support the movement during the national anthem during a school assembly.
Then she was removed from the school and placed on paid leave.
Chemistry teacher Windy Pappas of Woodland High School kneeled during a homecoming rally with two signs that read, “Black Lives Matter” and “It’s OK to disagree with every sign here!!!”
After the assembly, Pappas headed back to her class because she had no idea her act had irked the school staff. A staff member approached her and led her to her car in the parking lot.
“I felt like it was something respectful and supportive to our flag. I didn't even think of it as a protest. I was taken off-guard by the reaction. It's unnerving. I'm a single mom and that's something I'm thinking about right now,” she said.
Pappas also added that she was unaware whether she was being suspended or placed on paid leave but was told she would be informed after the investigation ended.
The school has now confirmed that the teacher was placed on paid leave.
After the incident, the school district released a statement that read, “We are aware that there was an unauthorized display during a Woodland High School rally on Friday. As a district, we're using this as a learning opportunity to ensure we are all aware of the free speech rights of students and employees in schools.”
Woodland High principal Karrie Sequeria also sent out an email to parents.
“While teachers do retain certain First Amendment rights in their capacity as an instructor, such rights are limited by education code and case law. Their personal, political or religious beliefs are not appropriately expressed at school or in the classroom,” said Sequeria.
The email further added, “Instead, the appropriate and legal instructional role is one of neutral facilitator — one who facilitates student discussion and intelligent analysis of current events.”
Many disapproved of Pappas' move on Facebook.
“Teachers don't need to get involved in politics or push their only beliefs. Teach that's their job! Protest on your own time and your on dime!” said Scott Ireland, a commenter.
Another one said, “Bottom line is she violated the terms of her employment which she acknowledged when she was hired. Protest on your own time. No sympathy from me.”
“I'm A REAL AMERICAN WHO LOVES HIS COUNTRY. IT IS NEVER OK TO DISRESPECT OUR FLAG OR THE AMERICAN NATIONAL ANTHEM and that is exactly what they do when they don't stand for the flag and national anthem,” said Cory Anaya, another commenter.
However, many people voiced their support.
“I support anyone and everyone who believes in equality for all. She has a right to kneel Go Mrs. Pappas teach them to stand or kneel for what's right peace love and unity,” said Jesika Leilani Johnson.
Another one said, “As someone who cares about Woodland High students and what they are exposed to, I am extremely proud and simultaneously disappointed to hear this news.”
Pappas has now returned to work.
This incident goes to show where we stand on accepting freedom of speech. Every person has a right to express what they feel and who they choose to stand with. Reprimanding someone on the basis of their belief is not acceptable.