A South Carolina school district faces a lawsuit filed by parents who believe their 15-year-old daughter was pushed after not stopping to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
The Associated Press reports that Marissa Barnwell walked quietly to class without stopping for the pledge or the moment of silence that followed. The fifteen-year-old said she was then confronted by a teacher who pushed her against a wall and yelled at her.
Barnwell said she was humiliated when she was sent to the principal’s office because she believed she was in trouble. However, she was sent back to class and said the principal never told her the teacher was wrong for their actions.
“I was completely and utterly disrespected,” Barnwell said at a news conference on Thursday, according to The State newspaper. “No one has apologized, no one has acknowledged my hurt…The fact that the school is defending that kind of behavior is unimaginable.”
Barnwell’s parents are suing her teacher at River Bluff High School, the school’s principal, Lexington School District 1, and the South Carolina Education Department in federal court for violating the teen’s civil rights and First Amendment rights to free speech and to not speak at all.
The Pledge of Allegiance must be recited in public schools daily at a specified time per state legislation passed more than 30 years ago. However, that same rule also forbids punishing anyone who declines to say the pledge, provided that person is neither disruptive or inconsiderate of others.
“The thing that’s beautiful about America is we have freedoms,” said Tyler Bailey, the family’s lawyer. “Students in our schools should feel safe, they should not feel threatened for exercising their constitutional rights.”
According to Barnwell, she called her parents in tears and they said the teacher, principal, or school district never responded to her.
As of Monday, Lexington School District told the AP that its attorney is working on a response to the lawsuit and has not offered any additional comments concerning the matter.