School officials, including both teachers and administrators, harassed a student at Klein, Texas’ Klein Oak High School for years over her choice to sit out the pledge of allegiance according to a federal lawsuit.
As Hemant Mehta writes at Patheos’ “The Friendly Atheist,” a 17-year-old who’s going by the pseudonym “Mo” to protect her identity has been “singled out” by her school since she was a freshman for her legally-protected protest.
In one instance from her freshman year, Mo was written up for sitting during the pledge. When she spoke to the principal about it, he defended the punishment, and told her it was acceptable “because of [the teacher’s] military service.”
In another, Mo was initially bullied by a sociology classmate who called her a “b*tch” for refusing to stand for the pledge, and after the principal forced an apology out of the student, Mo was placed in a class with the same bully. Instead of removing the other student, the school removed Mo instead, “essentially, punishing her for what the bully was doing.”
After being taken out of school by her parents for months of expensive homeschooling, Mo came back for her senior year. Though the bully had passed the sociology class Mo was removed from, the teacher derided her protest, calling it “unappreciative and disrespectful.” He went on to compare “people who refuse to say the pledge to Soviet communists, members of the Islamic faith seeking to impose Sharia law and those who condone pedophilia.”
Earlier this month, the Washington Post published an article debunking the idea that students can be kicked out of school for refusing to stand during the pledge, citing the West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette Supreme Court case from 1943 that the US government and public schools cannot legally compel students to stand for the pledge.
American Atheists used that same legal precedent to file their federal lawsuit on Mo’s behalf.