A Texas family filed a federal lawsuit on Saturday against the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District—citing a First Amendment violation—after a Houston high school suspended their daughter for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance, the Houston Chronicle reports.
India Landry, a 17-year-old senior at Windfern High School, was expelled for doing something she had done for a long time. What’s changed is the political environment, in which President Donald Trump blasted NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem.
The teenager explained to KHOU-TV why she refused to stand for the pledge: “I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that. It’s not obviously what’s going on in America today.”
According to The Chronicle, a teacher sent Landry to Principal Martha Strother’s office when she refused to turn over her cell phone. The teen had violated school policy when she sent a text message to her mother stating that she was ill.
While at the principal’s office, Strother and other administrators stood for the pledge. The principal expelled the student immediately after she declined to stand with them.
University of Houston Law Center Professor Emily Berman told the newspaper that the expulsion is illegal. Citing a 1943 Supreme Court case, West Virginia State Board of Ed v. Barnette, Berman stated, “There are a lot of constitutional questions that raise difficult or ambiguous responses, but this is very clearly not legal.”
School administrators later reversed their decision after local media outlets reported the incident, saying Landry can return to school with a letter from her mother stating the student can sit during the pledge.
Randall Kallinen, the family’s civil rights attorney, said that reversal comes too late. Landry has already missed a week of school and accrued four absences that will make it more difficult for the student to graduate on time in June.
“She was damaged. You can’t just throw people out of school,” said Kallinen, who filed the suit for an undisclosed amount for mental anguish, according to The Chronicle. “I don’t know yet if she’ll be held back.”
Kizzy Landry, India’s mother, told KHOU-TV that school administrators were uncooperative when they threw her daughter out of school.
“I’ve never been to a school where I was called to come get my child, and no one would talk to me about what’s going on,” she told the news outlet.
She stated that the principal finally spoke with her, saying that her daughter will not be allowed to come to school unless she stands for the pledge. That was before the incident became public and the school district overruled the principal.
Now that school officials will allow Landry to exercise her rights, the senior said she’s uncomfortable returning.
“I’m scared of being mistreated now by the administration because of what happened,” she stated, according to The Chronicle.