Similarly to Marlborough students, students at other private schools in Los Angeles have dealt with the limitations on free speech and free expression. Recently, some students chose to take a knee during the national anthem to protest and raise awareness for violence and injustice towards African Americans. These protests began when Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, chose to take a knee during the national anthem before a game.
Kneeling protests have occurred in many schools across Los Angeles. Members of the Notre Dame High School football team chose to take a knee during the anthem, as did members of the Campbell Hall choir and two Taft volleyball players.
Notre Dame Senior Cameron Jones explained the reasoning behind the protest.
“We saw what the NFL did and a lot of guys on the team, we agreed with what they were doing and everything they stand for. We took it upon ourselves to take that stand and we all realize what’s going in America right now is not the best and taking that knee symbolizes that,” Jones said, according to a Los Angeles Daily News article.
Zelia ’18 expressed her opinion on kneeling during the anthem at high school football games.
“I just think we wouldn’t be patriotic if we didn’t stand up for what we believe in, or in this case, kneel down, since that’s the sole reason why this country was founded,” Zelia said.
Nina ’19 said she agrees with the act of kneeling as long as there is a motive.
“As long as there is a reason behind the action, I think it is a good and valid political statement. Police brutality towards black people is a very big problem,” Nina said.
Similarly, many members of the Campbell Hall choir chose to kneel for the national anthem during the homecoming game on Friday, Oct. 14, after being advised not to by the Headmaster Julian Bull.
Bull said the school discouraged the students from kneeling, but would support the students’ decision either way.
“I do want Campbell Hall actually to be on the forefront of conversations about what it means to educate students to be good citizens. Part of being a good citizen is being informed and taking principled stands and caring enough to actually take some risks and then stand up for what you believe,” Bull said in an interview in The Piper, Campbell Hall’s newspaper.
The Campbell Hall board concluded that this form of protest is protected under the freedom of expression.
“The board affirmed that the ‘community of inquiry’ philosophy includes freedom of expression, and will therefore from time to time include controversy,” Bull said.
This raises the issue of freedom of speech and expression, especially as it pertains to the private schools around us. Some feel students should have virtually unlimited freedom of speech, while others believe that free speech should be controlled when it is hurtful others.
Last year, a number of students from Brentwood School got in trouble for posting a video on Snapchat of the students singing along to A$AP Ferg’s “Dump Dump,” a song that excessively uses the N-word while on a yacht.
According to a Los Angeles Times article published on May 18th, 2016, Brentwood decided to address these actions, despite the fact that they occurred off-campus.
“The school generally will not address off-campus misconduct that does not directly affect the school, but it reserves the right to get involved and even to impose discipline in appropriate cases, which is what we’ve done in this situation,” Brentwood’s Head of Advancement Gennifer Yoshimaru wrote in an email, according to the Los Angeles Times article
Max Winlock, an African American sophomore at Brentwood, said he “wasn’t surprised that the students sang the song,” but that “broadcasting it on Snapchat, however, glorifies the misogyny in the song and the use of the N-word,” according to the same Los Angeles Times article.
Marlborough student Sophia ’19 said the question of whether private schools should be able to punish students for speech outside of school is extremely complicated.
“On the one hand schools have responsibility of making sure students aren’t marginalizing other students but on the other hand students do have the right of free speech off campus and any attempt by the school to limit that can be unjust,” Sophia said.