A California teacher is accused of lowering two of her students' grades after they refused to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance. A Native American high school student said she has been choosing not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance since the second grade as a form of peaceful protest.
Leilani Thomas told ABC News affiliate KXTV in Sacramento that she has been sitting out the pledge to protest the way Native Americans have been historically treated in the US. "My dad and my mom brought up what [the pledge] meant to us and our people and what happened—you know, the history," she told a reporter.
Thomas said she had never been reprimanded until her advisory period teacher at Lower Lake High School in Lower Lake, California took issue. The teacher allegedly told Thomas and her classmate they were being "disrespectful," she said.
"I was pretty mad because she was being disrespectful to me also, saying I was making bad choices and I don't have the choice to sit down during the pledge," she told KXTV.
According to ABC News, the issue became known to Konocti Unified School District Superintendent Donna Becnel this week. Becnel confirmed the incident, saying, "One of the students let a principal know what happened and the principal then informed me. We've since transferred the two students to another [advisory period] class."
Becnel also said she supported the students and their freedom of speech rights. "Students here have First Amendment rights, and they do not lose that when they come to school," she said. "If any students have concerns about their right to free speech, they can speak with a site administrator. We also have policies in place to protect their right."
The district superintendent said the teacher involved had just begun working with the district this school year and added the district had no prior First Amendment issues in the past. Becnel did not reveal whether the teacher would face any consequences.
Thomas told KXTV that she will continue to sit out the pledge and noted she had received support from many of her classmates. "I'm understanding it more that it means a lot and to a lot of my people also," she said.
News of Thomas' silent protest follows growing protests within the National Football League (NFL) of players sitting out the pledge or taking a knee. It began with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and has spread throughout the league and to other sports.