A Houston high school student who was suspended for several days after refusing to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the school's principal and the school district.
On Monday, Oct. 2, Windfern High School student India Landry was sent to the school’s principal office for texting on her cell phone. While in the office, according to the complaint, the Pledge of Allegiance came on over the school’s intercom and Landry continued sitting.
When Principal Martha Strother asked Landry to stand, the 17-year-old declined. According to the complaint, Strother told Landry, “Well you’re kicked outta here.” Strother’s secretary also allegedly told Landry, “This is not the NFL.”
According to the complaint, Landry sat for the Pledge of Allegiance “around 200 times in class through six of more teachers without incident.”
Landry was sent home, and three days later she and her mother met with Strother. According to the complaint, Strother told them that Landry must stand for the pledge to be let back into school.
The next day, Friday, Oct. 6 — after KHOU Channel 11 aired a segment on Landry and the controversy — Landry was allowed back in school and told that she could sit during the pledge, according to the lawsuit.Seventy-four years ago, the Supreme Court settled the issue in West Virginia v. Barnette (319 U.S. 624 (1943)). Public schools cannot force students to take part in the Pledge, period. Justice Jackson delivered the opinion of the Court:
If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.
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.