California teen Leilani Thomas has chosen to honor her Native American heritage since the second grade, sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance each morning as her school day commenced.
It was only after San Francisco 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick brought attention to that particular form of silent protest that one of Thomas’ teachers had a problem with her actions, the teen told ABC 10 out of Sacramento.
“She told me I was being disrespectful, and I was pretty mad,” the Lower Lake High School student told the news station. “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 unnamed teacher docked Thomas’ participation grade for refusing to stand up. When Thomas brought the issue to school district officials, however, she found that she had their full support.
Konocti School District Superintendent Donna Becnel told ABC 10 that it is a matter of students’ First Amendment rights.
“They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse than anybody else does,” Becnel said.
Thomas and a friend who decided to protest with her have been transferred to another teacher’s class. The teen has been getting support from other friends and family as well, including on social media.
“I’m understanding it more, that it means a lot and to a lot of my people also,” Thomas told the news station.