District disputes reports of National Anthem ultimatum delivered at Manheim Twp soccer game

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MANHEIM TWP., Lancaster County, Pa. — The superintendent of Manheim Township School District says the message  from the booth in regards to respecting the national anthem was misheard. Several people in attendance at a high school soccer game earlier this week reported to local media that the PA announcer told those in attendance they would be removed if they did not stand for the singing of the anthem.

Superintendent Dr. Robin Felty issued a statement in which she said the district does “not condone any sort of behavior that knowingly violates an individual’s First Amendment rights.” After reviewing the district’s statement, read before all school athletic events, she believes there was confusion over the lines that read, “Anyone not honoring the request to be respectful will be removed from the gym/stadium,” and “during our National Anthem we ask that everyone display dignity and respect for our flag.” Felty said there should be no language whatsoever in the opening announcement that leads to any kind of interpretation that all attendees must stand. Therefore, the district is amending the statement for clarity.

Here is Felty’s entire statement, which was initially read during a School Board work session and then posted to the district’s website:

Good evening.

Our goal is to start this evening in a positive way and first acknowledge our pleasure with how well the school year has started. We continue to hear positive comments from students, parents, and staff regarding the start of the school year. Thanks to everyone for their support in getting the school year off to a great beginning!

On another note, we want to take this opportunity to also acknowledge the event that occurred at Tuesday evening’s girls’ soccer game, which appeared to have brought both confusion and frustration to some families and other attendees. A parent shared with us that she heard our opening announcement, which is given at the start of the game, to include a statement that we would “remove anyone who does not stand for the National Anthem.” This behavior would be against the law given our First Amendment rights. We do not condone any sort of behavior that knowingly violates an individual’s First Amendment rights.

When we gathered a copy of the written opening announcement to review the actual wording, the statement in question was written as follows: “Anyone not honoring the request to be respectful will be removed from the gym/stadium.” This wording is different from what was heard by several of the attendees. The parent we spoke to said she clearly heard the phrase “stand during the National Anthem or be removed.” The Athletic Department shared that they read from the prepared script without variance, which did not reference “standing or removal.”

In further dialogue with the Athletic Department, it appears that this written statement in our opening announcement has been used at least a year or so at all of our athletic events. They shared that the term ‘respectful’ was referencing the display of respect to the National Anthem, which a student (or more) performs “live” in front of the audience. Much pride and appreciation are felt by our students and their families when having the opportunity to perform live in this way.

However, when we reviewed the wording of that portion of the opening announcement, and heard the concern from several individuals, we understood that a misinterpretation existed and it needed to be addressed immediately. The phrase “Anyone not honoring the request to be respectful will be removed,” when used within the context of another phrase, “during our National Anthem we ask that everyone display dignity and respect for our flag,” can be construed as an attempt to make attendees stand during the National Anthem. There should be no language whatsoever in the opening announcement that leads to any kind of interpretation that all attendees must stand.

Therefore, given that several individuals heard the reference to “stand or be removed,” we immediately revised the opening announcement to bring clarity and understanding. We accept responsibility for what has occurred. Again, we do not condone any sort of behavior that knowingly violates the law.

In summary, we are proud of our student athletes on the field and do not want any negative attention to deflect from the positive attention that should be occurring regarding their achievements. As shared earlier, we are off to great start in our schools this year, and want the attention to be on the positive things occurring in the schools, athletic fields, performance stages, and our students’ community involvement.

Thank you.

Here is the script, read before Manheim Township Athletic Events:

Good evening ladies and gentlemen and welcome to the Manheim Kruis Field at Memorial Stadium
In tonight’s (game), the Blue Streaks host the (visiting team). The Lancaster Lebanon League and Manheim Township School District are emphasizing good sportsmanship from all coaches, athletes and fans. This contest is being played for the benefit of the students and student athletes of these schools. No body paint, noisemakers, rally towels, signs, or banners are permitted. No fans are permitted on the track at any time. Now lets meet the starting lineup, first from (visiting team)……Now the Blue Streaks…..

Ladies and gentlemen, please rise and face the flag, gentlemen please remove your headgear. During our National Anthem we ask that everyone display dignity and respect for our flag, the symbol of the freedom that was won by the millions of men and women who have defended and continue to defend our great nation. Anyone not honoring this request to be respectful will be removed from the gymnasium/stadium.

At this time let’s honor America as (singer/performer) sings/play the National Anthem.