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Parents sue school after principal expels student for sitting during Pledge of Allegiance

A Houston family is suing a local school district after their daughter was expelled for not standing during her school's Pledge of Allegiance. (William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

What's the story?

A Houston family filed a lawsuit in federal court Saturday after their daughter was expelled from her high school for not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. The family is accusing the school of violating her First Amendment rights.

What are the details of the incident?

India Landry, a 17-year-old Windfern High School student, said she was suddenly expelled Oct. 2 by the school's principal, Martha Strother, after she refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Although India said she hasn't stood for the pledge for years, it wasn't until she was in the administrative office during the daily pledge recitation that Strother noticed and took issue with her silent protest.

First, India said the school administrators began comparing her protest to the NFL players' national anthem protests.

"They were making rude comments saying, 'This isn’t the NFL, you won't do this here,'” she told KHOU-TV.

"The principal said, 'Stand up or you're out of here,'" she added, alleging Strother told her if she didn't leave the school grounds within five minutes, she would call campus police and have India Landry removed. Her mother, Kizzy Landry, was called to come pick her up, without any further details given to her.

Why didn't she want to stand for the pledge?

“I don’t think that the flag is what it says it’s for, for liberty and justice and all that. It's not obviously what's going on in America today," India Landry said.

According to Kizzy Landry, the administrators brushed India's protest off as an insignificant race issue.

"They just assumed it was about race," she told the Houston Chronicle. "The assistant principal told her, 'All the other African-Americans are standing, so you should stand, too.'"

What happened afterward?

According to KHOU, Kizzy Landry finally spoke with Strother in a recorded phone call, and Strother told her unequivocally that India would not be allowed to come back unless she stood for the pledge, even though Cy-Fair ISD's policy is to allow students to sit during the pledge as long as they provide written permission from their parents to do so.

But Kizzy said that solution wasn't enough for Strother, who began citing other problems like attendance issues and low grades to justify India's expulsion.

"All of a sudden, you have all of these issues with my child, but if it was like this, you would’ve said something a long time ago," Kizzy said.

After a weeklong expulsion and a local news story that brought attention to the matter, the school lifted the expulsion and allowed India back to school with a note from her mother, but the Landry family and their attorney believe the damage is already done and are seeking an undisclosed amount in damages for mental anguish.

"She was damaged. You can't just throw people out of school," said the family's attorney, Randall Kallinen. "I don't know yet if she'll be held back."

"I'm scared of being mistreated now by the administration because of what happened," India added.

One last thing…
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