Former Klein ISD student wins $90,000 settlement following claims she was harassed for sitting out Pledge of Allegiance

A former Klein ISD student has won a $90,000 settlement years after a lawsuit was filed claiming she was subjected to harassment and discrimination for sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance, according to the civil rights group American Atheists.

“I’m glad that the defendant finally made the smart decision and settled the case before we went to trial,” said Geoffrey Blackwell, litigation counsel for American Atheists who said he was also an attorney for the plaintiff.

The years-long legal case tied to Klein Oak High School has come to an end, he said.

Blackwell said the case was about a student, identified in court records as M.O., sitting out or declining to participate in the pledge at the school.

“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 student said in 2017.

The student’s mother filed a lawsuit against the school district and several staffers, accusing several of them of retaliation and discrimination as a result of the student’s stance.

Blackwell said the defendants were dismissed from the suit overtime except for one teacher, Benjie Arnold, who agreed to settle the case.

The Texas Association of School Boards, a risk pool funded by Texas school districts, paid $90,000 to resolve the case before trial, American Atheists said in a press release.

“A person wants to speak or express themselves or decide not to speak or not to express themselves, that is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution,” said civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen, an attorney for the plaintiff.

A spokesman for Klein ISD said the district was awarded summary judgment and did not enter into any settlement in the matter.

KPRC 2 reached out to attorneys listed for the teacher but has not heard back yet.

Blackwell said the student is now in college.