Woodland High School teacher knelt for anthem during school rally
On Friday, Oct. 13, a Woodland High School teacher was placed on paid leave after she knelt down during the national anthem at the school’s rally.
Windy Pappas, a chemistry teacher at Woodland High, held up signs during a rally reading “Black Lives Matter” and “it’s okay to disagree with any signs here.” Monse Gonzalez, a student at Woodland High, recounted the event during the pep rally.
“The national anthem started playing and she just took a knee,” Gonzalez said. “She held up a poster saying ‘Black Lives Matter.’ She was opposite of the flag, and it was pretty visible. She was the only one who kneeled down, but you couldn’t join her because people were on bleachers.”
When a picture of Pappas kneeling during the anthem was later posted on Facebook, several comments ensued regarding the issue.
“She had her hand over her heart and everything,” Gonzalez said. “While the choir was singing, one of the students yelled ‘stand up,’ and a lot of people seemed shocked. It wasn’t until after, on social media, when people started saying stuff about it.”
The rally continued afterwards, and the school later addressed the issue through a letter explaining the situation to both parents and students.
“The principal sent out a letter about what happened and mentioned that counseling services were available and that other teachers would help with any discussion if needed,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez is a student in Pappas’ chemistry class, and she recalled that Pappas told the class before the incident occurred about her plans to kneel during the rally.
“She had told us previously as a class, since she was my chemistry teacher,” Gonzalez said. “I was fine with it because it was her opinion and not mine.”
Gonzalez was surprised to see the outpour of responses on social media about the issue.
“It was shocking to see that a lot of people felt offended by it on social media,” Gonzalez said. “It wasn’t obvious until social media took over. Social media just turned it into a bigger deal and a trend.”
Lizbeth Figueroa, another current student at Woodland High, described the scene at the rally. In addition to Pappas, some students also held up signs.
“I looked around and some kids in the stands had signs saying that ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘it’s okay to be gay’ and things like that,” Figueroa said.
Figueroa noted that Pappas held a politics club on campus that allowed students to talk about their political views.
“She has a politics club and it was a pretty safe environment — kids can come and talk about whether they agree or disagree with each other about their political views,” Figueroa said. “This is how they decided to hold up signs during the national anthem.”
Figueroa said that there were some negative responses to the incident after the rally as well.
“I felt proud of her because it takes a lot of bravery, especially as teacher,” Figueroa said. “One of the students even ripped up her sign. Personally, I went into her classroom that day just to see if she was okay, and a lot of kids were talking about her and called her names and how it wasn’t right.”
Nancy Bravo, a second-year biological sciences major at UC Davis and former student at Woodland High, described Pappas’ positive character.
“It was just shocking to see all the comments, and it’s not how they should be talking about her,” Bravo said. “She’s so kind [and] energetic to everyone she is teaching […] you get this comfortable vibe [around her].”
According to The Sacramento Bee, Woodland High Principal Karrie Sequeira issued a statement over email and phone saying that teachers are expected to adhere to the Tinker Test, allowing students to express themselves freely without impeding others’ rights. However, she noted that teachers have certain limitations.
“While teachers do retain certain First Amendment rights in their capacity as an instructor, such rights are limited by Education Code and case law,” Sequeira said. “Their personal, political or religious beliefs are not appropriately expressed at school or in the classroom. Instead, the appropriate and legal instructional role is one of neutral facilitator — one who facilitates student discussion and intelligent analysis of current events.”
Pappas returned to teaching on Oct. 17 after four days of paid leave.
Written by: Stella Tran — firstname.lastname@example.org