Student Punished for Sitting During the Pledge of Allegiance

A photo of an American flag in a classroom.

Image: Shutterstock

Leilani Thomas, a student at California’s Lower Lake High School, got points taken off her grade for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. Thomas, who is Native American, has been sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance since the second grade. Ever since her parents explained to her what the Pledge of Allegiance meant to them and their lineage, she decided to sit. Her peaceful form of protest never caused her any trouble… until now.

According to Thomas, her teacher took points off her participation grade for not standing.

“She told me I was being disrespectful and I was pretty mad. She was disrespectful to me also, saying I was making bad choices, and I don’t have the choice to sit during the Pledge,” Thomas stated in an interview with reporters.

Konocti School District Superintendent Donna Becnel supports Thomas’ decision, stating that the First Amendment affords her and other students the right not to participate. “They have the same right when they walk through the door into the schoolhouse than everybody else does,” Becnel said.

Thomas’ decision comes at a time when there’s been a lot of controversy surrounding patriotic rituals. Recently, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick came under fire for choosing to kneel during the National Anthem. Similarly, Kaepernick cited racial inequality issues as his reason for not participating.

The recent media coverage has created a domino effect, with more and more students electing to sit out. In Pearland, Texas, 10 year-old Skyla Madria also kneeled during the Pledge of Allegiance. Madria said ever since she listened to the third verse of the National Anthem, she no longer wanted to participate. The third verse of the National Anthem was written by slave owner Francis Scott Key. This third verse reads:

“No refuge could save the hireling and slave / From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave.”

As tensions mount over the subject, educators are wondering how to breach the subject matter with students. Most teachers have decided not to intervene and instead let parents initiate that conversation with their children.

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