Ken Paxton takes a stand for Cy-Fair ISD in case of student who sat for Pledge of Allegiance
At a time of heightened tensions over patriotism and civil rights across the country, the state of Texas is taking a very public stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in a case involving a Katy student expelled after she failed to stand for the daily ritual at her school.
State Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office submitted a court pleading in support of Cypress-Fairbanks ISD in the lawsuit brought by an African American student and her mother. Their case is proceeding to trial on allegations that her expulsion was racially driven and violated her constitutional rights.
The federal court document praises the “time-honored tradition” of rising to honor the flag, citing a Supreme Court finding that government has a legitimate interest in preserving “the national flag as an unalloyed symbol of our country.”
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“The United States flag represents the values of liberty and justice that form the foundation of this country and are defended by our armed forces. It is thus deserving of the highest levels of reverence and respect, which is expressed through every recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance,” the pleading says.
The attorney general’s filing references a state law allowing parents to submit a letter stating that they do not want their child to stand for the Pledge, but if they haven’t done so, standing is not optional. Paxton’s brief says 26 other states have statutes enshrining the Pledge of Allegiance as a part of each school day and 16 other states allot for time for students who wish to say the Pledge.
India Landry and her mother sued the district after she was expelled last fall from Windfern High School, an alternative school she began attending after she fell behind on school work Cypress Springs High School. The lawsuit says she had been harassed and sent to the office several times for sitting during the school pledge. But when the school principal, Martha Strother, saw her doing this, she told her to stand. When Landry didn’t, she was expelled.
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Landry said her opposing the Pledge was political, inspired by NFL players who began kneeling during the National Anthem to draw attention to a surge of police violence against African Americans.
In July, U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison held that she had a legitimate claim that her equal protection rights were breached. Her civil rights lawsuit also lists teachers and school officials as defendants for breaching her rights to free speech, equal protection and due process.
Gabrielle Banks covers federal court for the Houston Chronicle. Follow her on Twitter and send her tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.