It is not illegal to sit during the National Anthem. It is a constitutional right to protest peacefully. On Jan. 30, a Latina student at Senn High School in Chicago named Yesica Salazar made the conscious choice not to stand as the National Anthem played during a Hispanic Heritage assembly. But her teacher did not approve, and what happened next is a true testament of the power that young people bestow.
According to news reports, when Yesica sat in silent protest, two other friends joined her and also sat down. The teacher (their identity has not been released) asked the young Latina if her legs were broken. Then the teacher reportedly told her that if she didn’t want to stand, she should “go back” to her country. The student informed the teacher that she was born in the U.S.
A student protest was held inside Senn High School in Chicago against a gym teacher! The gym teacher has been accused of racism, after reprimanding students who wouldn’t stand up during The National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance! pic.twitter.com/1ZzVq3cjKS
— Shawnasaurus Rex (@ShawnG927) February 14, 2020
But the teacher was not done belittling and saying racist things. When another teen sat down in protest of the anthem, this time a black student, the teacher told them “whether she was part of the public school system’s free and reduced lunch program, telling her she should stand for the people who have died for the country,” the Washington Post reports. The teacher then asked them both to leave the assembly. They reportedly went to go work on their college applications.
The following week students at Senn High School organized a sit-in and demanded justice for the racist outburst by the teacher. The Chicago Public Schools officials said they would investigate the matter.
#sennhighschool the principal addressing us during the protest pic.twitter.com/LwMLetiIPk
— Vote for Bernie Sanders (@RandomSenn) February 13, 2020
“CPS is committed to fostering learning environments that embrace and support all students, and the alleged actions of the teacher in question run counter to our beliefs and priorities as a school district,” spokesperson James Gherardi said, according to Block Club Chicago. “The district is opening an investigation into the alleged actions, and we support the students who have peacefully raised their concerns.”
Last week, officials finally announced they had removed the teacher from the school. However, it is not certain if the teacher will be let go permanently.
Students at a Chicago high school organized a sit-in after a teacher told a student to "go back to your country".pic.twitter.com/Wm2fyAU5Cs
— Voto Latino (@votolatino) February 19, 2020
“At the conclusion of OSP’s investigation, a final determination will be made regarding whether it is appropriate for this individual to return to Senn,” Senn Principal Mary Beck wrote.
Whether or not the teacher returns is beside the point. The students proved that if they rally together and peacefully, school officials would listen to them and take their concerns into careful consideration. They demanded their voices be heard, and that’s what this country is all about.