Back in February, in Maryland, Catonsville Middle School sixth-grader Mariana Taylor chose to take a knee — a la Colin Kaepernick — while the rest of her class said the Pledge of Allegiance. It was her form of civil disobedience and she knew exactly why she was doing it.
“I decided to kneel because there is a lot of things I really don’t agree with in the country happening — racism, sexism and the person in the White House, particularly the wall — it’s not ok,” said 11-year-old Mariana Taylor. “I feel like it’s important to stand up for what I believe in and I want to inspire other people to do it too.”
Even if you disagree with her politics, what she did wasn’t disruptive and it was certainly within the bounds of what students can do instead of reciting the mindless ritual. Her teacher, however, didn’t feel the same way.
According to the ACLU of Maryland, the teacher “incorrectly told her that the ‘rules’ require that she must stand for the Pledge. The teacher went on to suggest that rather than worrying about injustice, Mariana should stand during the Pledge to honor the good things in America.”
Mariana was reprimanded in front of her classmates for being “disrespectful.” It was only after she went to her next class in tears and another teacher told her to see the guidance counselor that she was able to talk to someone who understood the law.
After some confusion about what happened, other administrators got involved and they determined that the District’s policy actually prohibited kneeling because it was “overly disruptive.” But that policy would easily lose a court battle and even the principal admitted the policy “likely needs to be updated.”
The ACLU is now urging the District to clarify its policies so that acts like kneeling during the Pledge aren’t seen as problematic.
“The Supreme Court has been very clear that students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse door,” said Jay Jimenez, Legal Associate for the ACLU of Maryland. “The ACLU urges Baltimore County and all Maryland schools to review and update their policies to honor respectful student activism in the future, like silently ‘taking a knee’ during the Pledge of Allegiance.”
The District should take quick action on this so students like Mariana aren’t punished for doing nothing wrong. No one has to say the Pledge, and no one should be pledging blind allegiance to a country that makes a hell of a lot of mistakes. In this District, it took an 11-year-old girl to make that point.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Brian for the link)