The family of a ninth-grade student filed a First Amendment lawsuit after a teacher physically confronted her for walking to class while the school participated in the Pledge of Allegiance.
The altercation in November between Marissa Barnwell and the teacher was caught on video at the River Bluff High School in Lexington, South Carolina.
Barnwell says that she chose to walk quietly to her next class instead of participating in the pledge, but a teacher confronted her, yelled at her, and then pushed her against a wall.
“I was completely and utterly disrespected,” said the 15-year-old at a news conference Thursday. “No one has apologized, no one has acknowledged my hurt.”
She said that she told the teacher, “Get your hands off of me.”
Barnwell said she was sent to the principal’s office, where she felt humiliated. She said she was sent back to class, but no one told her if she had done anything wrong or if the teacher was in the wrong for accosting her.
“The fact that the school is defending that kind of behavior is unimaginable,” Barnwell added.
The Associated Press reported that South Carolina passed a law more than 30 years ago mandating the Pledge of Allegiance at schools, but that law also forbids punishing students who refuse to participate as long as they are not disruptive to others.
“The thing that’s beautiful about America is we have freedoms,” said Tyler Bailey, an attorney representing the family.
“Students in our schools should feel safe. They should not be feel threatened for exercising their constitutional rights,” he added.
The family is suing the teacher, the district, the principal, and the South Carolina Department of Education in federal court.
The Lexington School District 1 didn’t have a comment to the AP about the case except to say that the district attorney is working on a response.