Like Colin Kaepernick, more than a dozen NFL players, professional soccer players, and even state senators, Native American high school student Leilani Thomas made a statement this month by protesting one of America’s institutional odes to its own greatness. In this case, Thomas remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance prior to her first period class.
She’s sat during the Pledge of Allegiance since second grade, she says, because the American flag doesn’t represent people of Native American heritage like her. Her sophomore year at Lower Lake High School, in California, has been no different—until last Friday, when Thomas received some strange news: her participation grade had been docked as a result of her protest.
Thomas, CBS San Francisco reported, apparently recorded the unidentified teacher’s explanation for the docked grade points.
“Here’s the deal,” her teacher reportedly said. “If you really, really have an argument and feel so strongly about, then I need to see it written out—your argument—in an essay form. Like, why? Why, because here’s the thing: those people, they’re not alive anymore. Your ancestors.”
According to KCRA, Thomas took the recording to school administrators, who transferred her out of the class. She said her family plans to attend the next school board meeting to ensure the teacher’s response doesn’t go unnoticed.
“It’s the reason, because of the history that happened here. On my land. My people’s land,” Thomas told CBS San Francisco. “I go by that and I don’t agree with it. So I’m not going to stand for the people who did this to my people.”
ABC San Francisco reported that Konocti Unified School District Superintendent Donna Becnel supports those who make the choice to remain seated during the Pledge.
“They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse than anybody else does,” Becnel said.