Copiague Teachers Kneel During Pledge On Trump Inauguration Day

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Above Photo: Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers / iStock.

Two Copiague high school teachers kneeled in protest during the Pledge of Allegiance in class on Friday before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, sparking an internal investigation by school administrators, the Press has learned.

The two teachers who took a knee during the morning announcements were identified as long-time social studies teachers, according to sources with knowledge of the protest. The incident outraged some in the community and is expected to be among the subjects discussed at the next Copiague school board meeting.

“The district is aware of an incident that occurred Friday morning involving two high school staff members who interrupted the educational process of a first period class in Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School by engaging in a form of personal protest,” the district said in a statement posted online Sunday morning. “We take this matter very seriously, and an internal investigation is continuing to ascertain all of the relevant facts. Please be assured that neither the Board of Education nor District Administration condones such conduct in the classroom in any fashion, and will take appropriate action in response.”

Taking a knee during the salute to the flag became a widespread form of political protest after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick grabbed national headlines last year by kneeling during the national anthem at the start of NFL games to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Copiague students informed their parents of the protest shortly after it occurred, sources said. The reaction was nearly immediate in the community’s Facebook groups, where dozens of people posted irate messages detailing the incident. These posts prompted phone calls to the district from outraged parents.

“Teachers are to educate and not pass along personal beliefs,” wrote one commenter, who said they were appalled at the protest.

Kathleen Bannon, Copiague School District superintendent, declined to comment on the incident beyond its statement.

“The district has received many complaints from concerned residents regarding these staff members,” the administration said. “Because this is a personnel matter, we are limited by law regarding the information we can share about the nature of the district’s response. We assure the public that the district is addressing the matter and we intend to bring the matter to a close as soon as possible.”

Asked for perspective, Darius Charney, senior staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, told the Press that kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is constitutionally protected free speech. Charney wondered how the teachers’ kneeling could have disrupted the class since it is a silent form of protest.

“The First Amendment of the US Constitution clearly protects this kind of protest on matters of serious public concern,” said Charney. “So unless there is evidence that the kneeling actually caused a real disruption in the classroom—which, given its silent nature, seems highly unlikely—the school authorities cannot discipline these teachers for exercising their constitutional rights.”

The next Copiague school district board meeting scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Copiague Middle School was rescheduled due to the weather. A new date has yet to be announced.

—With Timothy Bolger and Rashed Mian

  • Dust of the Earth

    How can kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance be “disrupting the educational process”? The Pledge of Allegiance isn’t educational. It’s cult like. In the youngest grades, you’re made to memorize the words and then repeat them mindlessly every day, which you do until either you graduate or you rebel.

    In high school, one girl in my homeroom refused to say the pledge. She’d stay sitting the whole time every day. I thought it was a bit strange then, but now I admire her willingness to exercise her values. And I appreciate my teachers who never disciplined her for it or said anything. This is the way it should be.

  • “The staffers involved have apologized to Copiague’s Board of Education and the administration of the school district, according to the statement.

    “The district ‘will take into account these genuine expressions of remorse and contrition as we consider the repercussions for this behavior’, the statement read.”


    “Remorse” for silently protesting the inauguration of a fascist ignoramus? Now THAT’s some lesson for the students, isn’t it? The Gestapo would approve.

  • Yeah, but I also understand why people need to keep their jobs. Boy, do I understand it.

  • jemcgloin

    Not only is it not disruptive, but in a social studies class it should spark conversation and debate about government, democracy, and dissent. It is educational.


    Of course, and I also understand it. But I was criticizing the district, not the teachers who protested. Tenured teachers, as these two seem to be, have more protections than untenured ones, so they could fight any disciplinary actions, if they choose to. Copiague is in Suffolk County, which went heavily for Trump on Nov. 8. I hope their protest has sparked needed discussion of the Trump presidency and administration and its fascist tendencies, but I would be very surprised if it did.