A California high school student is expressing her displeasure after being docked points off of her grade for not standing up for the Pledge of Allegiance.
KXTV reported Thursday that Leilani Thomas has been sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance since the second grade and this was the first time that a teacher had taken action because of it.
The Lower Lake High School teacher docked points off her participation grade for her silent protest.
“She told me I was being disrespectful and I was pretty mad,” Thomas, who is Native American, told the station. “She was being disrespectful to me also, saying I was making bad choices, and I don’t have the choice to sit during the pledge.”
Thomas said that her mom and dad told her what the pledge meant to them and their heritage and decided to sit down.
Konocti School District Superintendent Donna Becnel is sticking up for Leilani and another student who chose to sit during the pledge. She said she’s defending the students’ First Amendment rights. “They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse that anybody else does.”
Becnel said it’s the district’s policy to support its students’ free speech. Thomas and her friend were able to switch to another teacher after learning about the incident.
Thomas’ protest comes in wake of the firestorm surrounding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision to sit and kneel during the National Anthem. His protest has sent a ripple effect throughout the professional sports and has trickled down to the high school level.
It’s hard to imagine why a girl of American Indian heritage would choose to sit through the Pledge, but it’s likely because of some distorted values she got from her parents. Much like the stories that some black students are getting from their parents about us being the oppressors because some of our ancestors had slaves, it’s probably our fault because the white man invaded their lands and ran off all the buffalo. Do we ever get the tab paid in full for the actions of our ancestors, or must we continue to pay for generations to come?
That aside, the girl has a right to sit through the Pledge or the national anthem. Disrespectful and disagreeable to some though it may be, it’s called freedom of speech, and should have absolutely zero bearing on her grades. Those grades are supposed to be earned by learning the material and passing tests. If a teacher can’t separate the two issues, then perhaps she’s in the wrong profession.
If more people fully understood the meaning of freedom of speech, they’d know you have to take the bad with the good – otherwise we could have gotten rid of CNN and MSNBC a long time ago. But that’s not how it works. We don’t get to punish people for having wrong opinions on matters – just the wrong facts.
Kids should be graded on merit alone, and if this so bothered the teacher, perhaps she should have taken the girl aside, asked her about it and tried having a discussion that might change her opinion. That’s how it works.