Niskayuna School Board backs administration on kneeling controversy

October 10, 2017 11:54 PM

NISKAYUNA - "If the kid wants to take a knee, fine take the knee," Niskayuna resident Michael Kavney said.

"I don't agree with him, I don't think he should have taken a knee," parent Madelyn Mallein said.

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The act of 'taking a knee' during a Niskayuna High School football game two weeks ago has been met with impassioned views on both sides of the argument.

"The national anthem is not about race, it's about being an American and first we are all Americans before we are any color, creed, religion or anything else. We are all American," Mallein added.

Mallein feels that if the conversation was truly about race or the treatment of minorities, the students and administration should be doing more to foster that conversation.

"The student said he was trying to start a dialogue, what is that dialogue? We aren't discussing race. What does he do to further that dialogue, off the field," she questioned.

Tuesday night, a statement was read by the school board president, saying different views exist and should be respected adding they stand behind the superintendent's decision to not play the national anthem at a pep rally.

"We have continued to follow the longstanding tradition of playing the national anthem before football games. But there is no such longstanding tradition for pep rallies," Board president Rosemarie Perez Jaquith said.

Michael Kavney, disagrees.

"This whole thing has gone on for years and years and years and because one little guy in there wants to stop it, bingo we're done."

Referring to Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Kavney wasn't offended by the kneeling so much but rather disappointed at the lack of transparency in how district makes decisions.  

"He has to realize that he works for us," Kavney said of Tangorra.

A Siena Research Institute poll released October 6, 2017 shows 60% of nearly 800 registered New Yorkers support athletes 1st Amendment rights to kneel during the national anthem. 

38% say it's disrespectful and should be done on their "own time."

The poll has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Statement for Oct. 10 BOE Meeting


Since our last meeting, Superintendent Tangorra has issued two public statements – one regarding a few student-athletes kneeling during the National Anthem at a football game, and one regarding the Anthem not being played at a pep rally in response to media inquiry.  These statements stressed the importance of:


·       Supporting our students and their right to express themselves in a peaceful and civil manner;

·       Respecting the feelings of all and the value of the thoughtful exchange of diverse views; and

·       Our National Anthem, United States flag, and patriotism.

We have continued to follow the longstanding tradition of playing the National Anthem before football games.  But there is no such longstanding tradition for pep rallies, which are focused on increasing school spirit and support and enthusiasm for the team (and feature cheers, the school alma mater, and other music).  So we maintained that focus in the interest of holding a unifying and fun event for our students – which it was.

In the national debate over the decisions made by professional football players during the National Anthem, we hear different perspectives and views.  Those different perspectives and views are present on the Board and in the community we serve.  We are grateful to live in a country where we can have differing views and express them freely.  In the context of our public schools, we come together on the principle of supporting our students and their education, which is grounded, as our Nation is, in the free exchange of ideas, with the requirement that the communication be mutually respectful.

At this point in the meeting, we welcome comments from members of the public. However, please note that this is a meeting to conduct the business of the district. Negative commentary about our students, or individual employees, will not be permitted. Our interest is in moving forward as a school community that is unified in its support of students and a calm and respectful learning environment.


Karen Tararache

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