Lawsuit: Teen expelled for sitting for Pledge of Allegiance
A lawsuit says a Houston student’s Constitutional rights were violated when she was expelled for not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance. After the School district reversed the decision,the black teen, 17, returned to school 4 days later.
Her lawyer said that the reversal came too late and that will make it more difficult for the student to graduate. The principal allegedly cited attendance issues, credit shortages and low grades, as reasons for her expulsion.
The teen transferred to the current school, an alternative “campus of choice,” after falling behind at the previous School. The family filed the suit for an undisclosed amount for mental anguish.
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The 17-year-old senior at Windfern High School wasn’t feeling well and texted her mother, Kizzy Landry, to pick her up. India’s first period English teacher tried to confiscate the phone since its use violated class policy. India refused to give it to her and was sent to see Principal Martha Strother.
While she was in the front office, Strother and other administrators stood for the Pledge of Allegiance. India remained seated, just like she has done around 200 other times at Windfern.
“I don’t want to stand for something that doesn’t represent what I’m going through,” she said.
The teen said she was given five minutes to leave the school.
“The principal said, ‘Stand up or you’re out of here,’ ” India said, adding that she was told that if she didn’t leave campus quickly, she would be escorted off campus by police.
The Landry family filed suit against Cypress-Fairbanks ISD and Strother in federal court Saturday, retaining civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen and citing the violation of the girl’s First Amendment rights.
“They just assumed it was about race,” Landry said. “The assistant principal told her, ‘All the other African-Americans are standing, so you should stand too.’ ”
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.
India says she has no intention of standing for the pledge in the future.
‘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,’ she said.
A statement released by Cy-Fair ISD said no student would be removed from campus for refusing to stand for the Pledge, and that the matter would be dealt with internally. No additional details were available from the school or district.
Besides the inconvenience and embarrassment of being kicked out of school, Landry said, the temporary expulsion could have long-term effects on India’s academic standing.
India transferred to Windfern, an alternative “campus of choice,” after falling behind at Cypress Springs High School. As such, it’s easy to fall behind at the school, she said.
In the week of classes she wasn’t allowed to attend, India missed a major grade in English, a test in algebra and, Kallinen said, the four absences she accrued may have put her at risk of not being able to graduate on time in June.
“She was damaged. You can’t just throw people out of school,” Kallinen said. “I don’t know yet if she’ll be held back.”
Kallinen said Landry and her daughter are seeking an undisclosed amount in damages for mental anguish.
More than anything though, Landry said she wants to raise awareness of students’ First Amendment rights being violated. The lawsuit was a last resort, she said, once the administration refused to correct their mistake.
“This is not right,” Landry said. “I don’t want other children to be treated like this.”
In a meeting with the principal Thursday, Strother allegedly cited previous problems with the teenager – attendance issues, credit shortages and low grades – as underlying issues for her expulsion.
“I thought, ‘Where is all this coming from?’ ” Landry said. “They never had a problem up until now.”
After India agreed to improve her performance, Strother told Landry the teenager would not be allowed to return unless she stood for the Pledge.