DESOTO, Texas - Members of the DeSoto High School volleyball team are getting both praise and criticism for kneeling during the national anthem before a game Tuesday night.
Several cellphone clips show the players down on one knee reportedly to protest the way police treat black men in America.
Although some members of the community have called their actions disgusting, disrespectful and upsetting, they did it with support from their coach and the school district.
Superintendent David Harris said the mission of DeSoto ISD is to prepare students academically and socially to be problem solvers and productive citizens.
"As our nation struggles with very real issues, we in DeSoto ISD are teaching our children they have avenues to express themselves, and that includes the First Amendment," Harris said in a statement. "We recognize the right of all members of our organization to express their views or to protest against actions or opinions with which they disagree."
Harris said there was a discussion between players and staff before the game about why Americans stand during the anthem and possible reactions from the community. The players talked about why they were choosing to kneel and how they plan to seek solutions for the problem.
Harris also said their actions were not a reflection of the respect the district has for members of the military who have fought for our country or local law enforcement officials.
Disabled Air Force Veteran Vandous Stripling served on the Desoto ISD school board for six years and said he fully supports the student's right to protest.
"I will swear and affirm to defend the constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic. These young ladies are exercising their constitutional right," he said. "They stood for the very essence of what I served for."
Stripling says students at Desoto ISD, which is 78 percent African-American, are hurting but are protesting peacefully, a stark contrast to protests in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"You're not taking to the streets. You're not looting. You're not rioting. You're not causing violence," Stripling said. "We have to get a nation of people involved to say, 'Look, we love our police officers. We know your job is hard. We know what you do is hard, but we also know that there are those around you who do not represent what you stand for.'"
"Our students are constantly exposed to the realities facing our Nation today, specifically the reality of what it means to be a minority in a society with implicit biases. In DeSoto, we teach our students to become thought leaders and active participants in their educational process," DeSoto ISD board president Carl Sherman added in his own statement. "While their actions may make some people uncomfortable, I applaud these students for exercising their first amendment rights in a civil, non-confrontational way."
Sherman also said he is thankful the students were allowed to take the road less traveled and prays that it will make all the difference.
Student Brian Bradford says a few ROTC students disagreed with the volleyball team's actions, but the majority of the class was behind it.
"We talked about what's been happening around the country and all the transgressions against African Americans," Bradford said. "I think it's great. I think more people should do it."
"Just because we're young doesn't mean we don't understand," said student Johnica Taylor. "We do understand."
A school board trustee against the students' actions told FOX 4 he's asked the superintendent to review what happened to see if anything should be done and may address it at their next board meeting Monday night.
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