Two Texas Students Sue Schools For Ability to Protest Pledge
Two Texas high school students have filed lawsuits against their schools saying they've been harassed by faculty and students for not standing during the pledge of allegiance.
India Landry's suit against Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District and Martha Strother, the principal at Windfern High School in Houston, alleges that Strother expelled India when she refused to stand for the pledge while in the school's office. The suit states that India was sent to an assistant principal's office to call her mother for a ride, adding that her mother had five minutes to pick her up or India would be removed from the property by police. When India's mother arrived at the school, Strother reportedly refused to see her. During a meeting a few days later, Strother allegedly told India's mother that India could return to the school if she agreed to stand for the pledge. A KHOU news package about the incident aired that night, followed by Strother changing her stance on India's expulsion.
The New York Times received a statement from the school district saying they could not comment on possible litigation, but confirmed that India was back in school.
Another student, only identified as M.O., is a senior at Klein Oak High School outside of Houston and claims to have been protesting the pledge for three years. During a news conference, M.O. said,
We live in a country where there isn’t justice and freedom for all, and so I’m not going to stand for a pledge that says there is.
According to M.O.'s lawsuit, she's faced constant harassment from students and teachers, saying that administrators have either ignored or defended the treatment. The lawsuit also states that M.O. has been harassed in person and online as recently as last week, and this year a teacher told students in M.O.'s class that people who sit during the pledge are equal to Soviet communists, pedophiles, and Islamist extremists. Klein ISD denies M.O.'s version of the events, saying their own investigation has found inconsistencies with her statements. Klein ISD also maintains they respect the rights of students and have no tolerance for harassment.
Both lawsuits are being funded by and filed on the behalf of the girls by American Atheists, a nonprofit group that supports separation of church and state, and both girls are being represented by Randall Kallinen, a civil rights lawyer in Houston.
In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that requiring a student to salute the flag or recite the pledge of allegiance was a violation of the First Amendment. Kallinen maintains that the schools have violated the 1st, 5th, and 14th Amendment rights of the two girls.