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Mitchell: CPS administrators silent on students’ anthem protest

The parent of a student at Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences recently reached out to me about an incident during a recent volleyball game.

“A few weeks back before a varsity volleyball game . . . the national anthem was played,” the parent wrote in an email. “About [three] African-American teenagers sat during the anthem and before it was over, the school’s Caucasian varsity head coach, Mary Soapes, not only screamed at them to stand up, but when they refused, she actually called the police to come remove them. This is appalling in every way and I hope you can shine a light on this disturbing behavior.”

I am not identifying the parent by name because this parent expressed concerns about retaliation.

OPINION

Unfortunately, after several conversations with a spokesman for the Chicago Public Schools, I cannot shed much light on this situation.

Administrators at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences did not return repeated calls for comment, and a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department said he could not locate any calls from the school.

But the school’s principal abruptly fired the volleyball coach on Oct. 28, according to CPS spokesman Michael Passman.

“We are sorry we were not able to get you the details you requested, but the information below represents what we are currently able to confirm,” Passman said by email. “Administrators at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences dismissed the coach from her position for reasons unrelated to the allegations in question, and the school will move forward with a new volleyball coach next season.”

I was unable to reach Soapes.

In an article published in 2014 by The Beverly Review, Soapes had expressed high hopes for building a winning volleyball program at the school.

“I think I can bring a different touch of discipline, a different touch of work ethic, that I think will not only extend on the volleyball court but also in their lives. I want to bring the pride back into the school,” she said.

Given the national notoriety that San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick has received for refusing to stand during the national anthem, it’s not surprising that some youth athletes are following his lead.

In September, Kaepernick went to Oakland, Calif., and joined players and coaches at Castlemont High School to form a die-in protest during the national anthem. The entire team lay down on the ground with their hands up while Kaepernick kneeled, FOX News reported.

Kaepernick isn’t just protesting. A week ago, the activist-athlete convened his first youth camp in Oakland, calling it “Know Your Rights.” Hundreds of black and Hispanic children from the Bay Area attended the free event.

Protests, especially the Black Lives Matter movement, have engaged young people in ways we haven’t seen since the ’60s.

So it is indeed odd that students here would be berated for orchestrating a peaceful protest.

But that’s what a parent says happened at the elite Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences.

“The dean of students, an African-American, threw the kids out of the gym after a police officer told the coach they were not about to ‘arrest some kids for sitting during the national anthem,’ ” the parent said.

Rather than embracing a teaching moment, it looks like CPS is running from it.