Two Riverhead High School football players were suspended for a day because the school said they created a potentially dangerous situation by leading other students in a re-enactment of NFL quarterback Tim Tebow's kneeling in prayer.
School officials said an estimated 40 students had gathered in the hallway this week to make the gesture, which is called "Tebowing" and is named after the Denver Broncos player.
Latest NFL stories
Tebow has received national attention this season because of his strong religious beliefs and fourth-quarter comebacks. Tebow, who is Christian, has turned around the Broncos' season with a 7-1 record as the starting quarterback.
His popularity has led to the "Tebowing" fad, where people kneel like Tebow in random places and then post the photos on the Internet.
Superintendent Nancy Carney said the suspensions had nothing to do with the religious nature of the gesture.
"It causes a potentially unsafe situation with 1,500 people in the building," Principal David Wicks said Thursday. "If you have 40 kids kneeling down in the middle of a hallway, and God forbid a fire alarm goes off, they could potentially stop someone from getting to safety."
Wicks said the gathering included athletes and members of the general student population.
School officials refused to name the suspended students, but Ken Carroll identified his 17-year-old twin sons, football players Connor and Tyler, as being suspended.
"I understand their position on safety," Ken Carroll said of the administration. "My only position is my sons telling me they weren't told to stop. When . . . called, I told him I would speak to my sons and it would never happen again. They were only two of . . .  who did it, and they are the only ones being suspended. It doesn't seem fair that they are being singled out."
Carney said the two students who organized the event earlier this week "had been warned not to do it anymore.
"There were two students who were insubordinate," Carney said. "That's why those kids were suspended. I understand kids are kids and all of those things; the key piece here is that they want to maintain order at all times in our schools and hallways. It becomes disruptive when you have that many kids down the hallways."
Connor Carroll, who will serve his suspension Friday, said the idea for the event was planned by "me and my group of friends. . . . We don't think there should have been a penalty, but if there is a penalty, it should have been everybody involved."
Senior soccer player Jordan Fulcoly, who said he participated in the activity, described it as "a bunch of kids trying to have fun. Tim Tebow is the most famous athlete in the country right now. But in [the administration's] defense, they said it made some students late for class and there was the potential for fights."
Therese Fulcoly, Jordan's mother, said, "I thought it was funny until the principal called and explained why he had a problem with it. They are in charge of safety and we expect them to take care of our kids. They run a tight ship and they really need to keep order."
Football coach Leif Shay agreed with the administration's action, saying, "I think they handled it appropriately. It obviously was not appropriate."
With James Crepea