Leilani Thomas told ABC 10 she has been silently protesting since she was in second grade, ABC 10 News reports.
“My mom and my dad brought up what it meant to us and our people,” Leilani said as she explained her Native American heritage. “So I just started sitting down.”
The high schooler told ABC 10 that recently a teacher at Lower Lake High School seemed to have an issue with her action and lowered her participation grade for not standing while students recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
“She told me I was being disrespectful, and I was pretty mad,” Leilani said. “She was being disrespectful to me also, saying I was making bad choices, and I don’t have the choice to sit during the pledge.”
The district’s Superintendent Donna Becnel told ABC 10 she supports students’ first amendment rights and will continue standing by Leilani and the other student who chose to sit.
“They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse than anybody else does,” Becnel said.
The superintendent said the district’s policy is to respect the students’ free speech.
According to ABC 10, Leilani and her friend were switched to another teacher after the district learned about the incident.
Leilani said she plans to continue sitting and is getting support from many of her classmates.
“I’m understanding it more that it means a lot and to a lot of my people also,” she said.