Liberty High principal placed on leave after apparent rant over players kneeling for national anthem
BATON ROUGE - A local high school principal is on administrative leave after a text message shared online appeared to show him demanding that student-athletes stand for the national anthem.
The East Baton Rouge School System told WBRZ that the administrator was placed on leave after images of the text message began circulating on social media. The conversation shows an individual identified as Liberty High School Principal Rob Howle saying the school should consider making standing for the anthem mandatory and that kneeling before football games was "embarrassing."
"Playing Football is a privilege not a right," the message read in part. "If they don't want to stand they can turn in their equipment and we will refund their money."
When asked Thursday about Howle's status, the school system said he was placed on leave that day. A statement from a school spokesperson said the school system "respects students' rights to freedom of speech and expression."
"The Office of Human Resources initiated an investigation based on information received today regarding Liberty High School. As a result, an administrator has been placed on administrative leave. In accordance with the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook, the East Baton Rouge Parish School System respects students' rights to freedom of speech and expression and promotes responsible citizenship."
The school system also cited the following policy concerning the Pledge of Allegiance.
At the beginning of each school day, time shall be permitted for those students and teachers desiring to do so to observe a brief time in silent meditation (not intended or identified as a religious exercise), which shall not exceed five minutes, and for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag.
Every assembly or meeting in each school should begin with the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and with the playing or the singing of the National Anthem, and all students shall be encouraged to learn the words of the National Anthem. Throughout the playing (singing) of the National Anthem and/or the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, students shall be encouraged to exhibit respectful behavior.