Chemistry teacher Windy Pappas returned to Woodland Senior High School on Tuesday, four days after being placed on paid administrative leave for kneeling during the national anthem at a homecoming pep rally.
As the “Star-Spangled Banner” played in the school gym Friday morning, Pappas dropped to one knee and placed her right hand over her heart. In her left hand was a “Black Lives Matter” sign, while a poster nearby stated, “It’s okay to disagree with any sign here!!!”
Pappas was later escorted from her classroom to the parking lot, where she was told to leave campus.
On Tuesday morning, Pappas was allowed to return to work, said Callie Lutz, district spokeswoman. Pappas was hired by the district in 2013.
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“District staff worked together to investigate an unauthorized display and it is completed,” Lutz said. She wouldn’t disclose the findings or whether any additional action was taken against Pappas, citing confidentiality because it involved a personnel matter.
Pappas declined to comment this week.
High school athletes have increasingly joined NFL athletes who kneel in protest of social and racial injustice. In September, more than 130 NFL players kneeled or sat during the playing of the national anthem. Opponents of the action say the act is unpatriotic and disrespects the flag.
In response, school districts have recently written policies about whether student athletes can kneel during the national anthem, but most do not have policies covering teachers. Instead, they point to rules that prohibit faculty and staff from making political statements during school hours or on school property.
Woodland allows students to express themselves freely so long as they do not cause a substantial disruption or impede the rights of others, according to district policy.
Lutz referred The Bee to a board policy that says employees should engage in discussions and activities on their own time and at their own expense. “On such occasions, employees shall make it clear that they are acting as individuals and not as representatives of the district,” the policy states.
Lutz said future incidents involving staff who kneel during games would be reviewed independently.
In the meantime, the district is taking the opportunity to offer its administrators a teaching moment. The incident will be discussed during their regular Thursday professional development meeting, Lutz said.
An unofficial Woodland High Facebook page garnered more than 200 comments after a post in favor of Pappas’ kneeling, including a handful of remarks from WHS instructors. English teacher Janice Rose lamented Pappas’ drawing attention away from the homecoming rally, and said her colleagues ought to steer clear of personal beliefs in the presence of malleable young minds.
“Many students look up to teachers to guide them and it is sometimes too easy to persuade kids to see things our way,” Rose wrote.