A teacher at a California high school lowered Leilani Thomas' participation grade for sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance (video below).
"My dad and my mom brought up what it meant to us and our people and what happened, the history," the Native American teen told KXTV. "So I just started sitting down."
Thomas has been doing her silent and peaceful protest since the second grade, but this was the first time a teacher penalized her for not standing during the pledge.
"[The teacher] told me that I was being disrespectful, and I was pretty mad," Thomas recalled. "She was being disrespectful towards me also, and saying I was making bad choices, and I don’t have the choice to sit down during the pledge."
Superintendent Donna Becnell expressed her support for Thomas and another student who sat.
"They have the same right when they walk into the schoolhouse that anybody else does," Becnell said.
It is school district policy to respect the students' free speech, according to Becnell.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1943, West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, that students cannot be forced participate in the pledge, notes the Cornell University Law School website.
"We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power, and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control," the judges' opinion read.
The school switched Thomas and the other student to a different teacher, but Becnell would not say if the first teacher was disciplined.
The student said she will continue to sit during the pledge: "I’m understanding it more that it means a lot and to a lot of my people also."