Weekly Roundup

“Little Lobbyists” Help Save the Health Care Law, for Now

With the help of “little lobbyists” — children suffering from “serious medical needs” at risk of losing health care under the Cassidy-Graham Bill — the new health care legislation was put to a halt. Read more.

High schools plan to punish students who refuse to stand for anthem

One Louisiana public high school will allow principals and coaches to discipline students who kneel during the national anthem. Read more.

Fort Bend school board president running for state senate, to challenge Sen. Huffman

Citing issues including public education and property taxes, Kristin Tassin, president of the Fort Bend Independent School District Board of Trustees, announced that she will challenge current state Senator Joan Huffman. Ms. Tassin will run as a Republican, despite her consistent criticism of Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, particularly as it pertains to his hostility toward public education. Read more.

Politicizing the Flag Cuts Both Ways

When former San Francisco Quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling for the national anthem during the 2016-17 NFL season, there was no doubt then as there is no doubt now that he did so to make a political statement. I don’t speak for Mr. Kaepernick, but, in my own words, the statement was an expression of anger and frustration over the lack of justice and accountability in the tragic deaths of black men (like Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner) and women (like Sandra Bland) due to unduly harsh treatment by police. Kaepernick viewed the act of participating in the ceremony of the national anthem as a choice, a political one at that, and exercised his constitutional right to free expression to opt out, creating a national controversy in the process.

Now, with Kaepernick unable to land a job in the NFL due not to his merit as a football player but to his allegedly “divisive” protest (bearing an interesting parallel to Ray Rice, who was essentially blacklisted from the NFL for knocking out his then-fiancee on camera), kneeling for the anthem has become bigger news than it even was last year. We can thank President Trump for that, who recently referred to NFL protestors (and, more importantly, American citizens) as “sons of bitches” who should be “fired” from the NFL for exercising their First Amendment right to free expression. (By the way, aren’t presidents required to swear to uphold the Constitution?).

Further, in my weekly roundup post, one of the articles I posted dealt with some high schools around the country essentially taking President Trump’s “those son of a bitches should be fired” “directive” to heart. One public school in Louisiana has threatened its student athletes by saying that school administrators and coaches are free to discipline any student athlete who kneels for the anthem. (Never mind that public schools are constitutionally forbidden to compel students to stand for the national anthem — see West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette). In so doing, these schools politicize standing for the flag as a symbol of, at best, blind loyalty to the status quo and, at worst, a symbol of coerced acquiescence to an establishment still very much uncomfortable with the thought of bodies of color disrupting a system (and a presidential administration) none-too-concerned with empirically supported claims of disparate access to justice. Call me a cynic, but I wonder whether this flag idolatry would be as rabid if professional athletes had been kneeling for the anthem to protest, say, the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision or the policies of the Obama Administration. I don’t think it’s controversial to assume, in a scenario where a conservative professional athlete knelt for the anthem to protest marriage equality on religious grounds, that the Sean Hannitys and the Tomi Lahrens of the world would be singing that athlete’s praises as heroically subverting the system through free expression, rather than masking their pseudo-moral outrage with pro-military sentiments, as they’re doing now.

In mandating (for public schools, unconstitutionally so) standing for the national anthem, school districts are forcing kids to participate in this politics. Kids are raised to stand for the national anthem as a sign of, I assume, national unity and mutual respect for the ideals behind the flag. I was a Texas public school student not too long ago (I guess I technically still am), and, to be frank, I never really thought about why I stood for the anthem every morning — I just did it. I would guess that most kids don’t really think about the act of standing for the flag as anything more than just something we as Americans do before school starts, before professional sporting events, etc. — as something innocent and devoid of politics unless one chooses to use the anthem to make a political statement. Now, in school districts like the one in Louisiana threatening punishment over kneeling for the anthem, school districts are removing that innocence from the flag and forcing kids to choose which side of the flag debate they stand (or kneel) on. Either way, if you’re a kid in that Louisiana school district, the national anthem is now a political event, and your participation or absence in that pageantry may yet say something about who you are, what you stand for, whose side you’re on. If more and more schools come out with policies threatening their students with disciplinary action if they choose to kneel for the anthem, then it’s safe to say that the debate over what the American flag means politically has just begun.

Weekly Roundup

Texas’s “Bathroom Bill” Still Very Much Alive

In an effort to legalize discrimination against transgender Texans, the Texas Senate has voted once again to advance SB 3, also known as the “Bathroom Bill.” Make no mistake about it: the Republican Party of Texas, despite its rhetoric, prioritizes cheap political parlor tricks over doing what’s in the best interest of its citizens (but I suppose when you elect a former shockjock conservative talk radio host as Lieutenant Governor, you get what you proverbially pay for). Notwithstanding the clearly discriminative effect this bill (should it become law) would have on transgender kids, a segment of the population already more prone to suicide than the average, the bill would have a deeply corrosive impact on the Texas economy, with companies like IBM, Facebook, Amazon, et al coming out strongly against the bill. Read more.

Texas to Lose Galveston and Hill Country Children’s Therapy Providers

“Children in the Galveston and Hill Country areas are going to be without state-funded speech, occupational and physical therapy services as two more providers prepare to leave the Early Childhood Intervention program.” Read more.


NAACP: School Choice is not the Answer to Improving Education for Black Students

“Education for black students in the United States has long been unequal and inadequate, but the solution to that problem does not lie in the school choice movement, NAACP leaders said at the organization’s national conference Wednesday.” The NAACP’s task force on quality education expressed its view that “even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education.” Read more.