Texas argues on behalf of school that expelled student who didn’t kneel for pledge of allegiance
Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton, an incumbent Republican who is up for reelection, is seeking to argue in a federal case that state law dictates parents must give permission for a student to sit during the pledge of allegiance.
BuzzFeed News reports that the case stems from an incident in Houston at Windfern High School, where then 17-year-old India Landry refused to stand for the pledge in the Principal’s office. The Principal was so incensed at Landry’s refusal that she expelled the girl, according to court records. Landry then sued the school.
Paxton has now filed a brief in US District Court for the Southern District of Texas on behalf of the state, asking a federal judge for permission to argue against Landry. “Requiring the pledge to be recited at the start of every school day has the laudable result of fostering respect for our flag and a patriotic love of our country,” he said in a statement. “This case is about providing for the saying of the pledge of allegiance while respecting the parental right to direct the education of children.”
Landry’s attorney Randall Kallinen told BuzzFeed he believes Paxton’s moves are undergirded by political machinations. “It’s election time… (Paxton’s statement) is to further their Republican values… Trump condemns the people kneeling for the national anthem, and he said we should kick the bums out,” Kallinen continued. “When he said those words, he emboldened people within the school district to punish kids who sit during the Pledge of Allegiance.”
Landry spoke to local news station KHOU shortly after the incident and explained her reasoning for refusing to stand up for the pledge of allegiance: “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… I wouldn’t stand because it goes against everything I believe in… (School officials) were making rude comments saying ‘This isn’t the NFL, you won’t do this here.’”
According to the Texas brief Paxton cited on Tuesday, “Texans also recognize that a critical aspect of the liberty guaranteed by the United States Constitution — and represented by the United States flag — is a parent’s right to direct the education and upbringing of his or her children… A State may act to protect that interest, and the Texas Legislature did so by giving the choice of whether an individual student will recite the Pledge to the student’s parent or guardian.”
Kallinen points to the ruling in West Virginia State Board of Education vs Barnette, which established that students have the right to sit out the pledge if they desire. The issue in the State of Texas is more complex because of the state law, and may have to be taken all the way to the Supreme Court. Kallinen seems prepared for this, telling BuzzFeed, “I say let’s go to the Supreme Court and ask them.”