A 17-year-old high school senior from Houston was expelled last week after she decided not to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance while she was in the principal’s office for disciplinary reasons, prompting the principal herself to eject the dissenting student from the campus.
India Landry, a student at Windfern High School, was sent to the principal’s office after refusing to allow her English teacher to confiscate her phone, the Houston Chronicle reported. While in the front office, Landry remained seated as other administrators rose for the Pledge.
When Principal Martha Strother noted the protest, she told Landry that she had five minutes to leave the school.
“The principal said, ‘Stand up or you’re out of here,’” Landry said, claiming that Strother warned her she would be escorted off campus by police if she did not comply.
Now, the Landry family has filed a lawsuit against Cypress-Fairbanks ISD and Strother in federal court, accusing the school district and the principal of violating Landry’s First Amendment rights. The district has disputed the suit by claiming that no student was ever expelled for refusing to stand for the Pledge and promised to hold an internal review.
Landry worries that her temporary expulsion could harm her academic standing, as Windfern is an alternative high school that she transferred to after struggling academically at Cypress Springs High School.
“She was damaged,” said civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen, who is representing the Landry family. “You can’t just throw people out of school. I don’t know yet if she’ll be held back.”
In addition to raising awareness for students’ First Amendment rights, the Landry family is seeking an undisclosed amount in damages for mental anguish.
Windfern administrators allowed India to return to school on Monday – so long as she carried a signed note from her mother allowing her to opt out of the Pledge – after a local television station covered the story.