In what now has to be a familiar scenario, two African Americans are using the courts to battle injustice in these United States. This time it’s two young black women from the sometimes-not-so-great state of Texas, who are taking their respective schools to court for the right not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
As reported earlier by The Root, 17-year-old India Landry is suing her high school in federal court after being expelled for not standing for the daily pledge. Although Landry was allowed to return to school, she now says that she feels uncomfortable, and wants to ensure that her rights cannot be arbitrarily dismissed.
On Monday the New York Times reported that another African-American girl, known only by her initials, M.O., is also suing her high school for the same reasons: being shamed or punished by teachers and administrators for exercising her constitutional right to protest.
“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,” the unidentified student said at a news conference last week.
According to Randall Kallinen, who is representing both girls, the students’ lawsuits say that the schools violated his clients’ First, Fifth and 14th Amendment rights.
The civil rights lawyer says, “It just seems that there is something in the air.”
That “something” is what could be rightfully termed a vicious backlash against not standing for the pledge, or the national anthem, something brought to the fore by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016.
M.O., a senior at Klein Oak High School outside of Houston, began her protest as a freshman in 2014. And India, a senior at Windfern High School in Houston, says that she began her protest about a year and a half ago, according to the Times.
M.O.’s mother, LaShan Arceneaux, says that her daughter has faced harassment for the last four years because of her stance.
The Times reports:
At one point, a guidance counselor suggested that the student switch out of a journalism class whose teacher had insisted she stand, according to the lawsuit. This year, a teacher told the teenager’s class that those who sat through the pledge were comparable to Soviet communists, pedophiles and Islamist extremists, the lawsuit said. Classmates harassed the teenager online and in person, including as recently as last week, Mr. Kallinen said.
Because of the harassment, Ms. Arceneaux decided in the spring to home-school her daughter before allowing her to return to school in August, according to the suit. The teenager, who said on Wednesday that she had a 3.9 G.P.A., continued to participate in debate competitions while being home-schooled, but at an expense of more than $10,000 to the family, according to the suit.
As for India, she was reportedly threatened by police if her mother did not come within five minutes after she was kicked out of school for not standing during the pledge.
Read more at the New York Times.