American Atheists joined forces with a Texas high school student and are suing the school district and her teachers. The high schooler claims she was harassed because she would not say the Pledge of Allegiance. The atheists and the girl’s lawyer assert that school officials have infringed upon her constitutional rights.
The lawsuit was filed Monday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The legal action is the second in the Houston area this month. Breitbart Texas reported on October 7 that 17-year-old India Landry sued the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District (ISD) and her principal after she was suspended for sitting during the Pledge.
Now a plaintiff who is referred to as only “M.O.” in court pleadings, is suing her teachers and administrators in the Klein ISD saying they have “failed to take adequate measures to protect her rights.” She also complains that she was subjected to “repeated harassment.”
A statement from her lawyer, Randall L. Kallinen alleges that one of her teachers singled her out in September for refusing to participate and called her “unappreciative and disrespectful.” It also said that “The teacher allegedly compared anyone who refuses to say the Pledge to Soviet communists, members of the Islamic faith seeking to impose Sharia law, and those who condone pedophilia.”
Geoffrey T. Blackwell is a staff attorney for American Atheists, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to “the absolute separation of religion from government.” He said, “School officials at Klein Oak High School have violated the First Amendment rights of M.O. and her mother.” “For years, they were complicit in a bullying and harassment campaign of a student who did nothing more than peacefully exercise those rights.”
The atheist organization has retained Houston based lawyer Randall Kallinen as local counsel.
Civil rights and plaintiffs lawyer Kallinen says, “There suddenly seems to be several of these cases popping up since President Trump commented about the NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem. Students do not lose their right to free speech at the schoolhouse steps.”
Kallinen asserts, “The right not to be forced to stand for the Pledge has been decided by the United States Supreme Court since 1943.”
The alleged harassment by teachers and students caused M.O.’s mother, LaShan Arceneaux, to take her daughter out of school and educate her at home, she says. Ms. Arceneaux is suing on behalf of herself and her minor daughter and claims that the family has had to incur more than $10,000 in expenses.
The federal complaint is seeking a judgment declaring that M.O.’s rights have been violated and asks for compensatory, exemplary, and punitive damages against the individual teachers and administrators. It also asks for reimbursement for legal fees.