KLEIN, Texas – A lawsuit claiming a Klein Oak High School student was harassed by teachers, administrators and students because she opted-out of the Pledge of Allegiance was filed Tuesday.
Here are five things you need to know:
1) Students are not required to stand during the pledge of allegiance
In a 1943 case, West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette, the United States Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to require students to stand.
The Supreme Court said, “We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.”
The Klein Oak student said the only trouble she has been in since starting high school is being written up or reprimanded for not participating in the pledge.
2) Sitting during the Pledge at Klein Oak High School
The 17-year-old, who's mother asked that she not be identified, says she began sitting during her freshman year in 2014.
"The first reason I sit is because obviously it is my constitutional right, but I also believe that 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 when there really isn't," the teen said.
3) Allegations of harassment
The student says since her freshman year in 2014 teachers, even school administrators have made clear their opposition to her decision.
The student said that she has been compared to communists and has been told to leave the country for refusing to participate in the pledge.
The teen recalling one incident in particular:
"He first started out by saying if you sit for the pledge you take from this country and you're unappreciative but then he goes onto compare people who sit for the pledge to Communists. He says that you want to be in America you need to assimilate to essentially our values, and that if you sit, you're not doing that," the student said of one of her teachers.
4) Federal civil rights lawsuit filed
The family says after years of pleading with the school to end what they called bullying, they decided to take legal action. American Atheists filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. Randall Kallinen is the family's local attorney.
"I believe they're letting their employees get carried away with political leanings in other words they say we're not gonna let their students have their rights," Kallinen said.
5) School district denies the allegations
Klein ISD released the following statement:
"Klein ISD is aware of a lawsuit filed against the District and some of its employees and former employees that alleges that the District and employees have interfered with a student’s exercise of her Constitutional right not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Klein ISD denies the allegations and, after investigation and discussion with those involved over a three-year span, finds multiple discrepancies in the allegations. Klein ISD continues to respect the rights of all students. As Klein ISD communicated to the family’s attorney this summer, Klein ISD does not tolerate harassment against students."