Teen Sues After Being Kicked Out Of School For Not Standing During Pledge Of Allegiance

“It goes against everything I believe in.”

First Amendment controversies seem to be multiplying by the day. From the white nationalist marches in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the American Civil Liberties Union representing noted provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, to recent protests during the national anthem, the American right to express oneself is under fire — and many citizens aren’t even quite sure what rights the First Amendment affords them, according to a recent Annenberg survey. When the debate trickles down to schools, the rights of students become even more unclear.

“Outside of a school, the law of the First Amendment would be absolutely crystal-clear, and unfortunately, it’s murky in the school setting,” Frank LoMonte, director of the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida, told The 74. “The problem is, there have been judges who are willing to look the other way on the First Amendment inside a school. Can a school legally deny you membership on a football team because they don’t like your speech? I doubt it, but I think there are some judges who would disagree with me.”

In the past few months, several students and athletes have been cautioned against taking a knee and following the lead of NFL players protesting during the anthem. Last month, a letter from a high school principal in Louisiana directing students to “stand in a respectful manner” during the anthem went viral, while two high school football players in Texas were stripped of their jerseys and kicked off the team immediately following their demonstration during the anthem.

Recently, a Texas teen filed a federal lawsuit against her high school after she was kicked out for refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. According to the New York Daily News, India Landry sat out the pledge hundreds of times since her freshman year at Windfern High School in Houston, Texas, but the senior was only recently reprimanded because school officials have "been whipped into a frenzy” over NFL players protesting injustice and police violence during the national anthem. Though other students across the country have also joined in the protests, the 17-year-old said she didn’t stand “because it goes against everything I believe in.”

“I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that,” Landry told Houston’s KHOU. “It’s not obviously what's going on in America today.”

Though the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that forcing students to stand for the pledge and anthem violates their constitutional rights, India said the principal, Martha Strother, threatened, “If your mom does not get here in five minutes, the police are coming.”

Given the recent spate of brutality and extrajudicial killings by police, India’s mother was worried about her daughter’s safety.

“I see what’s going on with the country,” India’s mother Kizzy Landry said. “I thought let me hurry up and get to my baby before something happens to her.”

India’s lawyer, Randall Kallinen, said the school had no cause to expel the teen. “Students cannot be instantly expelled except for being a danger,” he explained. “The only danger appeared to be that her sitting whipped principal Strother into a political frenzy.”

After the teen’s story made the press and her family filed a lawsuit against the Cypress Fairbanks ISD school district, the school walked back its expulsion decision. Nicole Ray, a district spokesperson said students “will not be removed from campus for refusing to stand for the pledge.”

India is scheduled to return to school this week. Despite the trouble it’s caused her, she said she will continue to sit out the pledge — and has every intention of going forward with the lawsuit.

Julian Meehan

Young leaders from around the world are gathering at the United Nations Headquarters in New York Saturday to address arguably the most urgent issue of our time. The Youth Climate Summit comes on the heels of an international strike spearheaded by Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden, who arrived in New York via emissions-free sailboat earlier this month.

Translated from Swedish, "berg" means "mountain," so it may feel fated that a young woman with Viking blood in her veins and summit in her name would be at the helm. But let's go out on a limb and presume Thunberg, in keeping with most activists, would chafe at the notion of pre-ordained "destiny," and rightly so. Destiny is passive — it happens to you. It's also egomaniacal. Change, on the other hand, is active; you have to fight. And it is humble. "We need to get angry and understand what is at stake," Thunberg declared. "And then we need to transform that anger into action."

This new generation of activists' most pernicious enemy is denial. The people in charge — complacent politicians and corporation heads who grossly benefit from maintaining the status quo — are buffered from real-life consequences of climate change. But millions of people don't share that privilege. For them, climate change isn't an abstract concept, but a daily state of emergency, whether it comes in the form of "prolonged drought in sub-Saharan Africa…devastating tropical storms sweeping across Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific…[or] heatwaves and wildfires," as Amnesty International reportsare all too real problems people are facing on a regular basis.

RELATED: Greta Thunberg urges people to turn to nature to combat climate change

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet

Millions of people in over 150 countries across the globe marched for lawmakers and corporations to take action to help stop climate change on Friday, September 20.

The Climate Strikes were organized by children around the world as an extension of the of the "Fridays for Future" campaign. Students have been walking out of classrooms on Fridays to speak out about political inaction surrounding the climate crisis.

"We need to act right now to stop burning fossil fuels and ensure a rapid energy revolution with equity, reparations and climate justice at its heart," organizers say.

There's no doubt the visual images from the marches send a powerful message to those on the ground but especially those watching from around the world. GOOD's own Gabriel Reilich was on the scene for the largest of the Climate Strikes. Here are 18 of the best signs from the Climate Strike march in New York City.

Keep Reading Show less

September 20th marks the beginning of a pivotal push for the future of our planet. The Global Climate Strike will set the stage for the United Nations Climate Action Summit, where more than 60 nations are expected to build upon their commitment to 2015's Paris Agreement for combating climate change.

Millions of people are expected to take part in an estimated 4,000 events across 130 countries.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via Apple

When the iPhone 11 debuted on September 10, it was met with less enthusiasm than the usual iPhone release. A lot of techies are holding off purchasing the latest gadget until Apple releases a phone with 5G technology.

Major US phone carriers have yet to build out the infrastructure necessary to provide a consistent 5G experience, so Apple didn't feel it necessary to integrate the technology into its latest iPhone.

A dramatic new feature on the iPhone 11 Pro is its three camera lenses. The three lenses give users the the original wide, plus ultrawide and telephoto options.

Keep Reading Show less
via I love butter / Flickr

We often dismiss our dreams as nonsensical dispatches from the mind while we're deep asleep. But recent research proves that our dreams can definitely affect our waking lives.

People often dream about their significant others and studies show it actually affects how we behave towads them the next day.

"A lot of people don't pay attention to their dreams and are unaware of the impact they have on their state of mind," said Dylan Selterman, psychology lecturer at the University of Maryland, says according to The Huffington Post. "Now we have evidence that there is this association."

Keep Reading Show less