On October 2nd, 2017 India Landry, a senior at Windfern High School near Houston, Texas, refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. This was not the first time Landry, refused to stand when the Pledge of Allegiance came on during the morning announcements.
Prior to the instance in October, Landry was kicked out of class on five separate occasions. However, on that day in October, she was expelled from school. In total, Landry had sat through the morning pledge in protest more than 200 times.
Both her English teacher and Principal explained to Landry that not standing during the pledge was disrespectful. According to court documents, even the principal’s secretary told Landry “This is not the NFL”. This statement sparked a legal battle with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The has been a media frenzy surrounding NFL football players who kneel during the national anthem at televised games. This has sparked major controversy within Texas. In response to this event, many students have been protesting the Pledge of Allegiance. Landry and Randall Kallinene, Landry’s lawyer, both argue that the law requiring students to stand during the Pledge is a violation of the First Amendment, the right to free speech.
According to the Texas Education Code, students are required to recite the pledge at least once a day, unless they receive a written excuse from a parent or guardian.
Enforcing the education code, the principal of Windfern High School expressed that sitting during the Pledge would not be tolerated. Kallinen however, argues that the law goes against students right to free speech even if it gives an option for parents for parents to excuse their child.
Since 1943, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that that student did not need to recite the pledge based on the notion that it was a violation to the first amendment because free speech includes not speaking against your beliefs. 20 years later, public schools also noted that students are allowed to express their opinions through actions, symbolic speech, as long as they aren’t being disruptive to the learning environment.
Although the Supreme Court has not addressed the recent issue of standing for the pledge, it falls under the category of symbolic speech.
Kallinen offered a hypothetical law where students had to donate their organs unless their parents said no. Although it is an extreme example, Kallinen explained that it would unconstitutional whether or not the parents approved.
Landry’s has been set to take place in a year from now in 2019.