Home / Be The Change / Native American Students Punished Academically for Not Saying the Pledge — Teacher Cites Militarism

Native American Students Punished Academically for Not Saying the Pledge — Teacher Cites Militarism

Lower Lake, CA — Over the past couple of weeks, Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem – and the solidarity shown by other players who followed suit – has brought the most fervent and irrational flag worshipers to a frenzy.

This misplaced rage is not only the province of football fans steeped in Miller Lite and Cheetos, but also some of those whose job is to educate the children.

A teacher at a Lake County public school district actually lowered the grades of two students who did not recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Their participation grades were lowered from five to three for not standing and chanting the words.

She says that it represents the military and that they risked their lives for us,” said Leilani Thomas, a Native American student. “And I always tell her, ‘Well, my people risked our lives for our land, for our freedom. For our rights.

Because forcing children to blindly pledge their allegiance to a flag is freedom.

Since the first day of school, Thomas and her friend have exercised their basic right to not stand and recite the pledge. Apparently, the manufactured rage over Kaepernick’s behavior has affected the decisions of this teacher, who wants to force upon students the false equivocation of reciting the pledge and “respecting the troops.”

But Leilani is a very smart student – in spite of her teacher’s shortcomings – and she recorded her teacher’s explanation for lowering her grade.

“Here’s the deal. 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,” the teacher is heard saying. “Like, why? Why, because here’s the thing; those people, they’re not alive anymore. Your ancestors.”

This failed attempt at reasoning, of course, is no justification for lowering the grades of students who are exercising their constitutional rights.

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It’s bad enough that public schools present a whitewashed, alternative reality of history to students — where brutal Western European conquerors are presented as noble and righteous explorers who befriended Native Americans. This teacher seems to think modern U.S. wars of aggression and the slaughter of innocent Middle Easterners with drone bombings are good military deeds that must be respected.

Leilani knows the real history of her people, and she chooses to express it by not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

“It’s the reason, because of the history that happened here. On my land. My people’s land,” said Thomas. “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.”

The good news is that the school district superintendent, after being given the recording by Thomas and her father, is standing behind Thomas and has moved her to another teacher.

The superintendent said in a statement, “Students don’t lose their First Amendment rights when they walk in the door. We are dealing with the teacher on this.

Thomas’ entire village will attend the next school board meeting to ensure the matter is not swept under the rug. As more students resist the false patriotism and allegiance to perpetual war being pushed in public schools, teachers cannot be allowed to stifle this awakening.

  • nico

    Leilani is so smart she probably knows that Francis Scott Key did not write the Pledge.

  • nico

    Sorry, this was put on here because before the article was edited, it stated that the Pledge was written by Key, a slave owner. I guess it was easier to remove it than correct it.

  • JennaTrull

    “Like, why? Why, because here’s the thing; those people, they’re not alive anymore. Your ancestors.”

    Neither are any of those dead soldiers you want her to worship.

  • hipposelect

    What the HECK? A school administrator stood up for the Constitutional rights of a student? What IS the world coming do? Good for that brave and knowledgeable girl.

  • kcgoat

    people are getting into a uproar,and full well know ,no one is going to be pledging before long ,because it will offend muslims

    • Amor Terra

      I haven’t noticed that anyone has done much to avoid offending Muslims, including stopping murdering them by the tens of thousands in their own homelands.

      • kcgoat

        we are talking about here , not over there

        • Amor Terra

          You’re a real piece of work, goatman. That’s code for “despicable bigot,” if you’re wondering.

  • Hugh Culliton

    I’m a Canadian teacher. We don’t have any such border-line fascist customs like a “Pledge to a Flag” (seriously folks – that’s WEIRD). We do however, stand and sing “O’Canada” in several languages. As well, in several compulsory subjects, we also deal with the discussion of our society’s history (warts and all), mechanics, challenges, and the citizen’s duty within. Still, many students, for many reasons, don’t want to take part in the morning exercise of standing for “O’ Canada”. They are never censured, pointed out, or ridiculed, because there’s no reason for such a response to an individual exercising their constitutionally protect right to not be arbitrarily messed-with.

    In Canada we are also dealing with the horrific damage to First Nations peoples who, throughout some of the 19th, and most of the 20th Centuries, by a policy of enforced residential schooling. This was a policy that was nothing less than a cultural genocide that in official records was designed to “drive the savage out of the Indian”. It was a policy counter to what we believe in and stand for, and it caused horribly deep social wounds from which First Nations are still healing.

    While the Canadian Government, to it’s credit, has at least apologized formally for the crimes inflicted on First Nations peoples, we still have a long way to go to make things right – to repay a debt very similar to the one your MLK Jr described from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. One of a teacher’s basic responsibilities, is to be a moral and ethical model for their students: if that doesn’t happen, learning will not occur. This requires them to build respect, and respect as everyone should know, has 2 underlying principals: it demands a commitment from both sides, and it cannot be enforced – it must be earned (as we said in the Navy: “You can’t push a rope”.

    But there’s more: the fundamental duty of the teacher is to be subversive. We are the people who must train young citizens to always challenge authority, to always ask and demand an answer to that most dangerous of questions: “Why?”

    So, for a teacher to academically penalize a student for not wanting to participate in a custom as meaningless as speaking to a piece of cloth (and let’s face it: like ours, it was most likely made in China. LOL), is very wrong. To do so in the context of a First Nation’s student who is asserting their absolute constitutional right and moral duty to decide for themselves what they believe, is utterly wrong.

    When it comes down to the bedrock and just like REAL journalism, real teachers must always be in total opposition to received wisdom, to the powers that be, to the way things are, and never be a friend to government. Once they become merely an organ of the state, they cease to be teachers and are merely propagandists.

    • Rena Wrapper

      This is exactly why I love Canadian teachers and Canadian police officers. In general, these community members work with and for the communities they serve. They don’t work for Big Brother, they don’t allow themselves to be used as mere propaganda pushers like in Natzi Germany re-education camps. No system or person is perfect but my kids & I grew up LOVING our teachers and we don’t stand for OCanada. For religious reasons we may not sing&stand but we sit in silence & show complete respect and humility. Many who stand are chewing gum, on their cell phones or hurling insults at the ones who don’t stand. That shows us who has more respect. We honor our country by being law-abiding citizens, by contributing our generous share and making sure to help out our fellow citizen if it is in our ability to do so. If there ever was a teacher who violated a child’s right Not to stand, we would be happy to deal with it at any of the country’s Human Rights Commissions offices. It would be an easy fix. Thankfully in my 11 yrs working for the top law of the country, I have NEVER seen it happen. 🙂 Our teachers are AWESOME!!!!!!

      • Hugh Culliton

        Wow…thanks! I guess if I’m to live up to such praise, I’d better get off my butt and tackle my marking pile this weekend!

        On a serious note, teacher or student; we’re all humans, and there are always things other people do that irritate us. Before teaching, I was an RCN officer, and was trained to be anally retentive about everything. I like straight lines, shiny shoes, and proper dress. I even get annoyed when my colleagues slouch during staff meetings, and yes, until my wife and kids mutinied and hid it, I woke my kids for school with a Bosun’s Call (this is exactly the way I did it and in retrospect, maybe I was a little over the top: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5lI0i4oqJw ).

        So even though I’ve mellowed, there are many occasions when, during some incipient conflict with a kid over some minor issue of annoyance, I’ve had to mentally check myself and ask “why am I doing this? Is this issue more about the kid or me?” We all need to do this, but teachers really have to. We are the models of behavior for our students. In addition to the respect, if we want them to learn how to positively deal with conflict, we must first model it. While it’s possible to be both an effective teacher and an authoritarian dick – a more flexible and collaborative approach is more effective and far easier.

        Have a fine Navy day!

        • Rena Wrapper

          Omygoodness that wake up whistle gave me an instant headache lol. I totally agree with what you said. No matter what age or background, we are all a work in progress, making adjustments all the time if we want to improve ourselves. Please know you are so appreciated even though you may not hear about it until you bump into a former student once they’ve grown up.♡

        • Phil Freeman

          If I were your kids I’d kill you in your sleep.

          • Agetha Besonson

            State side that is a “Terroristic Threat and Cyber bullying” and not acceptable.

          • Phil Freeman

            I suggest you find the actual law citation and post it regarding what’s a terroristic threat and what isn’t. Maybe read it too.
            As an aside, if I were your kid I’d kill you too, or at least leave you in a vegetative state. I love you, and kiss my ass.

          • Hugh Culliton

            My wife would probably help hold me down while they did it! Can you imagine how irritating it must be to live with a guy who considers every day to be “Talk Like A Sailor Day”? I think I’m still only alive because I didn’t buy the 3 ton Admiralty-pattern anchor at an auction last year. I wanted it as a lawn ornament – how wrong is that?

          • Phil Freeman

            You offer comedy, and levity and comity, whereas I’m serious. I’d have bludgeoned you to death, flayed you and sold the meat to the villagers for dog food.

          • Hugh Culliton

            Oh….in that case, I’m guessing that you’ve either served in a warship, have a problem with teachers, are a raving lunatic, or all three.

          • Phil Freeman

            All three. Yes, I’ve hunted armed men, while you’ve enjoyed the comforts of home. Teacher’s?, Garbage in garbage out. You’ve nothing to offer me.

          • Hugh Culliton

            I apologise for my tone – I thought that you were joking. Now, I mean this sincerely: no joke and zero sarcasm: based on our brief conversation, it sounds like we both know what effective enemy fire sounds like. So as someone else who’s been on the the wrong-end of rather unfriendly fire (and one blue-on-blue CAS – big unhappy face on that one!), and a guy who’s more recently worked extensively with teens in crisis – you sound a lot like someone who’s experienced some heavy $hit. Understand this: the problem’s not you, and there is hope and help. PTSD – (Pleasant Time-in a Shitty Destination ) is often experienced through inward anger and violent thoughts and is often projected outward. If you’re angry and might be feeling self-hate, that doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person. I’s far more normal than you might think. It is possible to accept and deal with the bad thoughts, and as difficult as it might seem, you can get through this.

            It’s just text, so I could be way off the mark. If so, I wasn’t trying to insult you in any way. It’s just that you sound like a lot of really great guys I know.

            Thanks for reading!

          • Phil Freeman

            No problem, no harm no foul. The typed word leaves much to presume and assume. All the best.

    • hang3xc

      “First Nations peoples”… you mean Indians.

      • Hugh Culliton

        In Canada, “Indian”, though still legally used to refer to Aboriginal Canadians, is commonly considered both inaccurate and a little insulting when used to refer to Canadian Aboriginals. Not ‘N-Word’ -rude, but certainly impolite. When being referred to collectively, people like the Ojibwa, Mohawk, Cree, Inuit, etc, prefer the term “First Nations”. As well, as we have a sizable group of folks who’s ancestry hails from the Sub Continent, who also cheerfully refer to themselves as Indians, it was getting a little confusing.

        • hang3xc

          I was making fun of political correctness. Obviously it’s at LEAST a little insulting, because every word ever used to describe every single thing that has ever been given a name is now insulting to the newer generations.

          Sometimes even the new names given turn out to be insulting too ie: midgets are now little people… but who would want to be called that? It doesn’t seem to be an improvement.

          Perfectly correct labels aren’t even acceptable anymore, like retarded, which means less advanced, not just for people either. You retard your ignition timing on a car for example. It is the correct word. It shouldn’t be taken as an insult

          • Hugh Culliton

            What does “political correctness” have to do with anything? I teach lots of kids who, for a variety of reasons, prefer to be called a name different from the one on their birth certificate. Seriously, if someone tells me that the name they like to go by is Bill, it would be rather silly, disrespectful, and pointless for me to insist on calling them Jake just because I insist that Jake should be their correct name. Indeed, the underlying message of such an action is: “I don’t care or respect you enough to accept that you are capable on identifying yourself as you wish, as only I have the power to decide what and who you are.”
            If our First Nations (an historically accurate term), in exercising their constitutional rights and would rather be called First Nations over Indians, what’s the problem? How does that in any way affect me? Besides, as I said – most First Nations would prefer much more accurate names like Ojibwa, Cree, Mohawk, or Niska. It’s actually the same as Americans referring to themselves as Texans or Hoosiers.

          • Amor Terra

            Oh but you see, in the U.S., a certain contingent of barely closeted racists uses the word “political correctness” to decry the abominable practice of finding different terms to refer to historically disadvantaged or abused people than the terms that were used to abuse them in the first place. Apparently, calling people First Nations, or indigenous, or Native American, or African American, instead of Indian or Ni**er is “what is wrong with America” and shows people who do it to be “libtards,” and the people to whom it refers as “reverse racists” and “special little snowflakes.” Isn’t America truly the “greatest nation?”

          • Hugh Culliton

            For what it’s worth, we have such assholes in Canada as well. As a teacher, trying to open such minds is a large part of my job!

          • Amor Terra

            I’m sorry. With the great number here in the U.S., I had apparently wrongly assumed we got all of them.

        • Agetha Besonson

          I appreciate your candor; DNA and several ancestor web pages have brought to my attention, that I am not as “Black and White” as many other people have discovered through a 20 year study done of the colonial America based on science before the influx of Somalia, Syrians, Iraq, Pakistan, and Iran–just to name a few of the ethnic groups. By definition, Indians-Noun: A native or inhabitant of India. Which begins to beg the question in regards to faulty analogies. Essentially it is a form of circular argument, divorced from reality. Just using my ancestral lineage, I am a composite of North America Continent and European inclusive of Prussian, now called Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey, Israel, China, Russia, Scandinavian, Australia and they have mapped out all of my origins. However, as I told someone on our Constitutional Thread, I am not confused about who I am as I bring to the table historical stories of ancestors including their warts and I do not stand down for no one. THE MAIN POINT IS: THE CHILDREN BEING PENALIZED FOR NOT “PLEDGING ALLEGIANCE” IS IN VIOLATION OF OUR U S CONSTITUTION AND IT IS NOT MILITANT BEHAVIOR. WHAT IS MILITANT IS BURNING THE FLAG, OR DESTROYING OUR ANCESTRAL LEGACY EVEN AS INDIGENOUS PEOPLES.

          • Hugh Culliton

            When I got to the end of your post, I think I heard a solid mike-drop! Well said!

  • Bea Freer

    The teacher is the one who should be punished. Why would or should these children bow down further to their oppressors — the ones who have enslaved them, while spitting on the land they have so loved and respected? Leilani Thomas should be given an ovation for being true to herself and her people. God bless this little girl for knowing what is right, for having a conscience and ethics. I use to be affronted when people would not say the pledge of allegiance but that was before Big Business began ruling our lives. If I could, I would stand next to Leilani and congratulate her. I would tell her how ashamed I am of our government that is ruled by greed rather than respect. I would tell her that freedom in the USA is dead, as evidenced by the teacher, and peaceful protestors being intimidated with dogs, U.S. Marshals with assault rifles, stun guns, etc. The teacher should be FIRED. For that matter, so should the majority of our legislators and lobbyists who have destroyed our country for pure greed. Bless you, Leilani!

  • Phil Freeman

    It would be well to question the origins of your reveries folks. Where does a pledge come from, what is its purpose? Whence does the pledge of allegiance come from, why was it adopted? http://i.imgur.com/70HbR8f.jpg

    • billdeserthills

      You do know the nazi salute is palm downward, right?
      The swastika was actually taken from an american indian design, is that a conspiracy?

      • Phil Freeman

        The Nazis adopted the salute from the US. The swastika is an ancient Chinese character meaning ten thousand years and the symbol is reversed for Nazi use. Try reading some actual history.

        • billdeserthills

          Learn to compare apples to apples & orange to oranges–The world doesn’t need anymore bullshit

          • Phil Freeman

            Non responsive much? Not bullshit, historical facts.
            There’s a vacancy under a rock somewhere..smdh

          • billdeserthills

            You sound like a fucking moron–No offense to real morons, of course

          • Phil Freeman

            That’s what I thought, just a weak bitch. Incapable of holding a rational debate. Weak, lame and lazy.

  • Phil Freeman

    White and blue fever is lethal folks.

  • Steve Smith

    The native American student wins. Thank god we still have some shreds of humanity left in our schools. I will also take a knee.

  • Recon5

    “On my land. My people’s land,” said Thomas. “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.”
    Yeah? Well here’s a bulletin for you: it’s not your peoples land, because they lost it. Just like they lost the land to each other when they fought and lost *those battles.
    Embrace the suck and move the f#!k on.