A Black Texas student who was forced to write the Pledge of Allegiance after refusing to sing it by her high school instructor will be awarded $90,000 to resolve a lawsuit she filed after the occurrence.
The student, named Mari Oliver, was represented by American Atheists, according to NBC News. On Tuesday, the civil rights organization announced that Klein Oak High School teacher Benjie Arnold had agreed to a settlement.
The Texas Association of School Boards, a risk pool backed by Texas school districts, paid $90,000 to settle the case before it went to trial, according to the group.
According to court filings, Oliver filed a claim against Arnold and the school in 2017. Oliver was “harassed, penalized, and retaliated against for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance,” according to American Atheists.
The Black student had “exercised her constitutional right to decline to participate in the Pledge because of her objection to the words ‘Under God,’ and her belief that the United States does not adequately guarantee ‘liberty and justice for all,’ particularly for people of color,” according to the organization.
According to NBC News, the United States Supreme Court declared in 1943 that students who refused to salute the American flag or recite the Pledge of Allegiance for religious reasons could be permitted to do so. A public or charter school is also required by Texas law to accept a student’s decision to skip the pledge if the student’s parent or guardian submits a written request.
Despite the fact that Oliver’s mother made the request, the suit claims that her daughter was still harassed as a result of her refusal to take the pledge. Her mother ended up taking her out of school for a while so she could be homeschooled.
“When she returned, the persecution she had suffered for skipping the Pledge had resumed and worsened,” according to American Atheists. According to the lawsuit, despite the fact that teachers were informed of Oliver’s decision to skip the pledge, Arnold continued to trouble and persecute her.
Because Oliver refused to say the pledge, Arnold insisted that the plaintiff and her classmates write it out instead. According to the American Atheists, Arnold told Oliver, “What you’ve done is leave me no choice except to award you a zero, and you may have all the beliefs, resentment, and animosity you want.”
Arnold was reportedly overheard encouraging pupils that if they wanted to move to Europe, he would help them financially. He did, however, warn them that if they chose to return to the United States, they will have to repay the money in full.
“The classroom does not serve as a pulpit.” “It is a place of instruction, not indoctrination,” said Geoffrey T. Blackwell, one of Oliver’s lawyers. “This settlement serves as a reminder that when students enter the classroom, they do not relinquish their First Amendment rights.”
Another attorney, Randall Kallinen, remarked, “The time and money expended by the Klein Independent School District to stop a student’s free speech is extraordinary.” “Educators should teach the Constitution rather than breaking it.”