PEARLAND, Texas – After fighting for what 10-year-old Skyla Madria said she believes in, Pearland ISD said it will allow her to kneel during the pledge of allegiance at Alexander Middle School with her mother's written permission.
Every morning Alexander Middle School students gather in the gym to stand and recite the pledge of allegiance, Texas pledge and observe a moment silence.
For the past two weeks, Madria, has decided to kneel instead.
"I did not really agree with the national anthem," Madria said.
The fifth-grader along with community activist Quanell X view the anthem and the pledge in the same light. Pearland ISD does not play the national anthem as a part of its schools' morning routine.
"So when you talk about saying the pledge, it says with 'freedom and justice for all?' When in the hell is white America in this country given black folks freedom and justice for all?" Quanell X said.
Madria said she was first inspired by San Francisco 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the anthem throughout the NFL preseason and the opener Monday night in protest of racial oppression.
Madria said she also has a problem with a certain section of the anthem.
"When I heard the third verse of the national anthem, I decided that's not right," Madria said.
The unspoken, hardly recognized, never sung third verse written by notorious slave owner Francis Scott Key, reads: "No refuge could save the hireling and slave/From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave."
"Why would we ask any African American child or citizen to stand up and honor a flag with an anthem written by a slave owner who promised nothing but turmoil to blacks to the grave?" Quanell X said.
Madria says when a PE coach asked her to stand up last Thursday, things got heated and he allegedly yelled.
"He told me you should respect my flag and respect my nation and you should stand up for this pledge," Madria said.
The school district responded in part, saying: "...the teacher requested that the child stand, and the child did so. The teacher did not touch or discipline the student in any way, as alleged by Quanell X."
"The opportunity for the parent to sign a waiver for their child has consistently been the district’s stance from the beginning and the involvement of Quanell X did not sway or impact our decision," a district spokesperson added.
Madria's mother, Elizabeth Owens, plans to sign the waiver so her daughter can exercise her First Amendment right.
"I think she's amazing," Owens said about her daughter. "I stand up for what's right and I stand behind my daughter 100 percent."
Now all the family is asking for is an apology from Pearland ISD for how it was allegedly handled.
Pearland ISD released this statement on the situation:
"When a Pearland ISD student recently knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance, the teacher requested that the child stand, and the child did so. The teacher did not touch or discipline the student in any way, as alleged by Quanell X. The student’s parent initially told campus administrators that the child should stand as well.
"When Pearland ISD Superintendent Dr. John Kelly learned of the situation, he determined that students may, by Texas law, opt out of reciting the pledge based on their parents’ consent.
"Pearland ISD’s student handbook contains the following policy (p. 43) about reciting of the pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags:
"As a parent you may request that your child be excused from participation in the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas flag. The request must be in writing. State law does not allow your child to be excused from participation in the required minute of silence or silent activity that follows. [See Pledges of Allegiance, A Minute of Silence and policy EC(LEGAL).]”