America is the “land of the free” and nothing says “freedom” like forcing children and teenagers to pledge their allegiance to a thing, amirite?
Seriously though, how is it that in the 21st century, there are “educators” that still haven’t gotten it in their heads that forcing students to stand and participate in the Pledge of Allegiance doesn’t fly like it used to. Really, it was always weird. For all of conservatives’ pretentious and racist grandstanding about critical race theory indoctrination—a thing that isn’t happening in K-12 schools or anywhere, really—they seem to be ignoring that for generations, the traditional American education system was forcibly indoctrinating students into repeating the lie that “liberty and justice for all” has ever been a reality in this country and then forcing students, of various religions or lack thereof, to declare that lie “under God.”
And apparently, there are school faculty members who are still engaging in the practice—but not without getting themselves sued.
According to CHRON., the Texas Association of School Boards has agreed to resolve a lawsuit by paying $90,000 to a Black Houston area student who said she was harassed and bullied by her teachers for refusing to stand for the janky-a** pledge.
The whole thing reportedly began in 2017 at Klein Oak High School. The now-former student, who, according to Click2Houston, has only been identified in court records as M.O., objected to the words “under God” and said, “I also believe that we live in a country where there isn’t justice and freedom for all and so I’m not going to stand for a pledge that says there is when there really isn’t.”
The student is demonstrably correct.
Even if you’re of the belief that we live in a post-racial America now—which we sure as hell don’t—the Pledge of Allegiance was written in 1892, early on in the lynch-happy reconstruction era that came after roughly two and a half centuries of slavery and proceeded Jim Crow.
But boooy, the whites sure do get butthurt when folks, especially Black folks, don’t want to stand up and cosign their lies. (Colin Kaepernick, anyone?)
Despite knowing that the student was exempt from the pledge, the teacher, identified in the suit as Benjie Arnold, singled out the student and threatened to fail her for not observing the pledge. According to the release, Arnold told the student that what she did left him “no option but to give you a zero, and you can have all the beliefs and resentment and animosity that you want.”
Arnold also offered to pay students to move students to Europe if they didn’t like living in America, as evidenced by an audio recording of the incident.
Europe, huh? I guess we should all just be glad Arnold didn’t do what was likely his first instinct and tell the student to go back to Africa.
The lawsuit, which was filed by the student’s mother and includes the school district as a defendant, also initially included several other staffers at the school. But during the years-long legal battle, the staffers were all dismissed from the suit except Arnold.
Geoffrey T. Blackwell, litigation counsel at American Atheists, which handled the student’s case, said the settlement serves as a reminder that students still have their First Amendment rights when they’re at school. So they ain’t gotta pledge their allegiance to sh**
“The classroom is not a pulpit,” he said. “It is a place of education, not indoctrination.”