Unlike many people, 22-year-old Mari Leigh Oliver did not have the best high school experience. As a Black girl at Klein Oak High School, she often found herself meta*horically standing on the outside looking in. But nothing showed her the racial divide of America quite as much as how her high school teacher responded when Oliver decided not to stand or recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Because Oliver felt that the Pledge of Allegiance was “racist,” she did not want to show her support for it by reciting it along with all of the white students in her Texas classroom. Although it was her Constitutional right not to recite the Pledge – the school could not force her to do it – she was relentlessly bullied and a*acked for not following along with everyone else. The worst of it occurred in the spring of 2017 when Oliver’s high school teacher made it very clear that she was expected to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance “like a good girl.”
Back in 2017, Oliver made it very clear why she did not want to stand for the Pledge.
“We live in a country where there isn’t ju*tice and freedom for all,” she said, adding that the phrases “under God” and “liberty and j*stice for all” are particularly offensive toward Blacks in America because Blacks and African Americans are not guaranteed them by any stretch of the imagination.
“I’m not going to stand for a pledge that says there is when there really isn’t,” she said at a 2017 press conference.
Now, Oliver has received support from the Texas ju*tice system. The court found that the Klein school district had no right to intimidate and bully Oliver into reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. According to the Houston Chronicle, the school – and by extension, Oliver’s teacher – did not show “deliberate indifference” to the students’ rights.
However, Oliver’s 75-year-old sociology teacher, Benjie Arnold, has agreed to put this issue into the past by settling the case and awarding Oliver a $90,000 payout for her trouble.
Although Arnold is named in the suit, the sociology teacher will not be expected to pay the fee. Instead, the Texas Association of School Boards will be bailing Arnold out. The TASB is a r*sk pool that’s funded by Texas school districts in the event that racist and other inapp*opriate behavior from teachers causes legal trouble, as it did in Arnold’s case.
After winning the settlement, Oliver’s attorney said, “Teacher Benjie Arnold allegedly singled her out and retaliated against her for sitting out the Pledge. Although she was exempt from the Pledge under state law and teachers had been informed of this fact during a staff meeting, Arnold nonetheless required that she and her classmates write it. After she refused, Arnold told her and the rest of the class: ‘What you’ve done is leave me no option but to give you a zero, and you can have all the beliefs and resentment and animosity that you want.’”
Do you think students should be able to decide whether or not they want to pledge allegiance to the United States?