Listen: Prince William County School Board Chair Ryan Sawyers Says He Sides With Sitting Students


Monique Robinson
wmal.com
The chairman of the Prince William County School Board is unapologetic about a Monday tweet that referred to President Trump as “a bonafide idiot” for taking a public stance against the NFL for its refusal to punish players for sitting or kneeling during the National Anthem.

“I think it’s a really dumb move on the president’s part to interject himself on the employment of a private citizen that is peacefully exercising his first amendment right,” said Ryan Sawyers, who is also running as a Democratic for Congress in Virginia’s First District, a seat currently held by Republican Rob Wittman.

Sawyers says the courts long ago ruled that refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance or National Anthem constitutes protected speech under the U.S. Constitution, and he refuses to punish or counsel school children otherwise.

“They are not protesting the flag,” said Sawyers. “They ‘re exercising their right to freedom of speech. There is a major difference. Look, if Donald Trump and Rob Wittman want to repeal and replace the first amendment that is something they can certainly take up but, this is long settled law.”

Sawyers told WMAL’s Mornings on the Mall Tuesday that President Trump or Wittman can go about rewriting the First Amendment if they want to, but he will defend the rights of students to not stand, just as he’ll protect the rights of students who seek places to pray during school.

“I stood for many National Anthems and many Pledge of Allegiance… I certainly would be glad to tell why I stand and what it means to me but just because I have my good reasons for standing for the flag and it’s what I do that doesn’t make anyone else’s reasons worse,” said Sawyers. “They have the right to exercise that freedom and we certainly as a school system can’t retaliate and I don’t think anyone including any one of your listeners would want us to start retaliating against students with police for exercising their right, whether we agree or not.”

Prince William Regulation 052.01-1 states participating in the Pledge of Allegiance is not compulsory. The regulation also states that those who do not choose to participate either for religion or “other deep personal convictions” are allowed to sit quietly out of respect for others and “shall make no display that disrupts or distracts others who are reciting the Pledge.”

Sawyers will have to first run in next year’s Democratic primary before he could directly challenge Wittman for the First District seat.

Copyright 2017 by WMAL.com. All Rights Reserved. (PHOTO: Ryan Sawyers campaign page)

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