As America’s national anthem protests have grown louder, consuming the NFL, the office of the president and a good chunk of public discourse, India Landry has had her own silent revolt, sitting quietly during the Pledge of Allegiance at her Houston high school.
The 17-year-old senior was one of many relatively anonymous people who have followed the lead of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem in 2016 to protest police violence against black people, among other discrimination.
At Windfern High School, India and other students are required to stand during the pledge, even if they don’t recite it. But for the past 200 or so school days, India told Houston CBS affiliate KHOU, she refused to “stand for the pledge because it goes against everything I believe in.”
For months, her act of civil disobedience attracted little fanfare, according to a lawsuit filed by her mother, Kizzy Landry. It’s something she says she’s done for years, but it was never a problem until now. But on Oct. 2, she was summarily expelled by school officials, who told her that “this isn’t the NFL.”
Few people remember it, but the case in which the United States Supreme Court first decided students’ rights regarding the Pledge of Allegiance actually originated in West Virginia. The case was West Virginia state board of education vs. Barnette (1943). In that case, the Supreme Court struck down a resolution that allowed schools to expel students who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance on the basis that refusing to stand constituted an act of insubordination. The Court held that forcing students to stand for the Pledge constituted compelled speech and violated the First Amendment.