The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investigating a 15-year-old high school student for allegedly uttering the word "ISIS" during the Pledge of Allegiance at Ansonia High School in Connecticut (video below).
“The allegation is that the male was allegedly making pro-ISIS statements during the Pledge of Allegiance," the Ansonia Police Department told WTNH.
The incident occurred before the school's December 2015 winter break, the Connecticut Post notes.
Officials at Ansonia High School notified police, who in turn notified the DHS over the student's alleged speech, which one lawyer says is clearly protected by the First Amendment.
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“It’s pure speech," John Williams, a civil rights attorney who is not involved in the case, told WTNH. "It's not like the proverbial shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater. It does no harm to anybody, except to himself, by making himself look silly.”
Carol Merlone, the Ansonia Superintendent of Schools, said in a statement that the school "did not deem the incident a legitimate threat to the safety of students or staff" but still notified police "out of an abundance of caution."
Merlone added that "the matter is resolved” as far as the school district is concerned, but the boy's life has been turned upside down.
He's been sent to an alternative school and is the subject of a federal investigation, which authorities refused to talk about with news outlets.
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The DHS was questioned by the Connecticut Post about the boy but referred questions to the FBI. The FBI has not commented yet, and the U.S. Attorney’s office refused to comment to the newspaper.
Ansonia police Lt. Andrew Cota said in a press release on Jan. 21 that the department "forwarded it off to Homeland Security as we would with any case that we feel needs to be brought to their attention. We are no longer investigating this matter."
The student's mother recently told the local board of education that her son was not pulled from the high school “because of discipline” or “ill behavior," but rather “because the principal ... was allowed to be irrational and make an impulsive decision,” notes the Post.
She noted that the allegation against her son is unfounded, adding that "if it had been founded, it was also an exercise ... of his ... rights to be able to say what he needs to say."