In a recent article, a student who was more than likely influenced by the Colin Kaepernick incident, has accused a teacher of physically removing him from his seat for not participating in the pledge of allegiance. There are laws that protect student rights in the area of participating in the pledge of allegiance. Teachers who believe that a student who desires to exhibit behavior consistent with the Colin Kaepernick incident must refrain from physical or verbal harassment.

According to the article, IL Teacher Punishes Student For Refusal to Stand for Pledge, a teacher at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, Illinois is under investigation for accusations that she not only attempted to force 15-year-old sophomore Shemar Cooper to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance, but physically forced him out of his seat against his will before punishing him in front of his peers.

The youth’s mother attempted to resolve the issue with the school until she found that the school administrators attempted to shame the student by saying he disrespects the military for exercising his right to abstain from acts of patriotism. In addition to the harassment, Cooper was sent to the office to face punishment for exercising his constitutional right. After several unsuccessful attempts to contact the superintendent, the youth’s mother has filed a complaint with the local police who may file charges against the teachers.

What are the possible consequences for the way that the teacher responded to the student who may have been influenced by the Colin Kaepernick incident

The possible consequences for the teacher could result in either criminal or civil liability. If the teacher physically removed the student from his seat then she could be convicted of physical assault. In particular this action by the teacher could result in a charge of battery.

Although the statutes for defining battery vary by jurisdiction, a typical definition for battery is the intentional offensive or harmful touching of another person without their consent. Under this general definition, a battery offense requires all of the following:

  • intentional touching
  • the touching must be harmful or offensive
  • no consent from the victim

The next consequence for the teacher is civil litigation. A civil lawsuit is any lawsuit filed  in an attempt to legally recover monetary damages or to have a specific action from a legal contract upheld in a civil lawsuit. Civil lawsuits are different from criminal proceedings in that civil proceedings are used when someone has been damaged by another’s actions or a product and seeks money, rather than criminal prosecution.

Since teachers are required to protect the rights of all students, even though they might not agree with the Colin Kaepernick incident,  they must also ensure that they are not sued for negligence. Negligence is a concept of common law connoting legal fault whereby on party breaches a legal duty and becomes liable to a second party for an injury directly attributable to the unintentional conduct of the first party. Negligent conduct in its simplest definition is that conduct in which a reasonable careful person would not engage. Negligence may involve doing something that reasonably prudent person would not do under the circumstances or not doing something that a reasonable prudent person would do under the circumstances. It is reasonable to protect the rights of their students.

Teachers who decide to protect the rights of their Black students also eliminate many of the negative perceptions that Black students hold. Many Black adolescents believe school is a hostile place and teachers are oppression agents. They also believe that White teachers symbolize the racism Black students have endured throughout their entire lives.

Students who perceive that teachers have favorable feelings toward them have higher achievement levels when teachers have positive views toward them. Students also do better in school when they believe getting a good education will increase their chances for success. Teachers should take the Colin Kaepernick incident as an opportunity to promote positive racial teacher student classroom relationships (Properateasclaships).

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Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034


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2 thoughts on “How should teachers respond to the Colin Kaepernick incident?”

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