A Texas high schooler is fighting to reverse an expulsion decision for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, an act of defiance she argues is guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.
“I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that,” Windfern High School senior India Landry said last year after she was sent home. “It’s not obviously what’s going on in America today.”
Kizzy Landry, the now 18-year-old student’s mother, contends school officials initially would not provide details about why the girl was expelled last year, though a principal later said “she can’t come to my school if she won’t stand for the pledge,” USA Today reports.
India told KHOU she sat through the pledge on previous occasions without issue, despite state law that requires a parent’s signature to do so. The situation prompted the Landrys to file a federal lawsuit against the Cy-Fair Independent School District, and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton intervened in the lawsuit late last month to defend the expulsion.
“Schoolchildren cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge,” Paxton said in a statement, which also noted Texas is one of 26 states that require a parent’s signature. “Requiring the pledge to be recited at the start of every school day has the laudable result of fostering respect for our flag and a patriotic love of our country.”
Laundry’s attorney, Randall Kallinen, shrugged off Paxton’s involvement as a political ploy, and noted the punishment came one week after President Trump criticized NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
“We are confident that, based upon the law, that Ms. Landry will prevail and she will once again be able to sit for the pledge of allegiance,” he told KHOU.
An informal survey by KHOU found roughly 85 percent of viewers online agreed with the effort to require students to stand for the Pledge, while only 15 percent believe students have the right to choose.
That’s seemingly consistent with a 2016 survey by the Institute for Advanced Studies in Culture outlined in “The Vanishing Center of American Democracy.”
The study found:
“Eight of ten (81%) (of respondents) … agree that ‘America is an exceptional nation with a special responsibility to lead the world.’ Overwhelmingly (93%), they also describe themselves as patriotic.”
The American Civil Liberties Union offers resources for students and teachers that outline free speech rights in public schools, covering topics from silent protests, to walkouts, to political clothing in the classroom.
“If you’re a public school student, you don’t check your constitutional rights at the schoolhouse doors,” according to the ACLU website. “But whether schools can punish you for speaking out depends on when, where, and how you decide to express yourself.”