Last October, 17-year-old India Landry was a student at Windfern High School in Houston, Texas. For months, Ms. Landry had sat quietly in her seat, rather than stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, as is required by the school. Her silent protest had gone largely unnoticed until one day it came to the attention of the school principal. On 02 October 2017, Ms. Landry happened to be in the principal’s office when the bell sounded to indicate it was time for the pledge. Landry sat. The principal, Martha Strother, told her: “Well you’re kicked outta here. This isn’t the NFL.”
Ms. Landry was then told to call her mom for a ride home, else she would be escorted off the premises by police. The school district released the following brief statement:
“A student will not be removed from campus for refusing to stand for the Pledge. We will address this situation internally.”
In 1943, in the Supreme Court case of West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Court ruled that students couldn’t be forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance. The rules at India’s school don’t specifically require that a student say the pledge but require students who don’t say the pledge to stand unless they have a note from a parent.
India’s reason for sitting was, “I don’t think the flag is for what it says it’s for, liberty and justice and … all that. It’s not obviously what’s going on in America today.”
During this same time, the Colin Kaepernick protest had led to a nationwide controversy, with Donald Trump ordering Vice-President Pence to leave a game “if any players kneeled”. But India Landry’s mother was just concerned with getting her daughter back into school. She repeatedly called the school, trying to set up a meeting with the principal, and when a meeting was finally arranged, Principal Strother told her …
“India must stand for the pledge to be let back in at Windfern.”
Strother said that sitting was “disrespectful and should not be allowed” and suggested that instead of refusing to stand for the pledge, India should “write about justice and African Americans being killed.”
Shortly after the meeting, India’s mother got a call from local CBS affiliate KHOU, asking for an interview about the “pledge controversy”. Funny how bad publicity changes people’s minds, isn’t it? Shortly thereafter, Ms. Landry received a call from the school principal saying that India could return to school and sit for the pledge.
End of story? Not quite. Between India’s expulsion and the school backing down, Kizzie Landry, India’s mother, had filed a lawsuit claiming that the school violated constitutional protections of free speech, due process and equal protection. The case has not yet come to trial, but on Tuesday, the Texas Attorney General, Ken Paxton, decided to put his two cents worth in.
“The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental interest in guiding the education and upbringing of their children, which is a critical aspect of liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. The Texas Legislature protected that interest by giving the choice of whether an individual student will recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the student’s parent or guardian. School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge.” Hey, Ken … this “school child” was 17 years old, plenty old enough to decide for herself whether or not the flag represents any values today.
Mr. Paxton, by the way, is currently under indictment on three felony charges related to securities fraud that will likely go to trial sometime this year. But hey … he stands for the pledge!
There is a Texas state law that, in part, states:
Section 25.082 PLEDGES OF ALLEGIANCE; MINUTE OF SILENCE. (a) Repealed by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 851 (H.B. 2442), Sec. 9, eff. June 15, 2017.
(b) The board of trustees of each school district and the governing board of each open-enrollment charter school shall require students, once during each school day at each campus, to recite:
(1) the pledge of allegiance to the United States flag in accordance with 4 U.S.C. Section 4; and
(2) the pledge of allegiance to the state flag in accordance with Subchapter C, Chapter 3100, Government Code.
Landry’s attorney, civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen, believes Paxton’s involvement comes because it is an election year, and says he is willing to take this case all the way to the Supreme Court if needed. While states are able to make their own laws in many areas, they are not allowed to make laws that contradict federal law, and this Texas law is obviously a direct contradiction to the aforementioned Supreme Court ruling of 1943.
You may remember the case back in February of Karen Smith, the gym teacher in Boulder, Colorado, who grabbed a student by the jacket, lifted him to his feet and dragged him out of the class because he did not stand for the pledge.
Let’s be realistic, folks. The pledge is words … 31 words, to be exact … that children have been required to say during the school day for as long as anybody can remember. But the children are saying the words by rote … they are only words until one stops to think about them, and when one does that, in light of the current state of the United States, it is, in my view, perfectly acceptable to say, “Nope … the words don’t match the reality”. All you need to do is look at the last six words, “with liberty and justice for all.” Even India Landry, only 17 years of age, can see that “liberty and justice for all” no longer exists in the United States of America. Perhaps, until this nation finds its bearings again, the pledge of allegiance should be relegated to the annals of history.