Leilani Thomas has been sitting out the Pledge of Allegiance since way before she knew who Colin Kaepernick was. The Native American high school student has been protesting silently since she was in second grade.
“My mom and my dad brought up what it meant to us and our people,” Leilani said. “So I just started sitting down.”
But for the first time a teacher at Lower Lake High School took issue with it and docked her participation grade for not standing.
“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.”
Konocti School District Superintendent Donna Becnel is standing by Leilani and the other student who chose to sit. When asked why, Becnel said because of the first amendment.
“They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse than anybody else does,” Becnel said.
The superintendent said its district policy to respect the students’ free speech. The school switched Leilani and her friend to another teacher after learning about the incident.
Leilani says she will continue to sit 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.