India Landry refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at her school and was expelled for doing so and has now found herself with a powerful enemy, Ken Paxton, the Texas Attorney General, reports BBC.
After being expelled, Landry filed a lawsuit against the Cypress Fairbanks Independent School District which administers her former school, Windfern High School. Landry was expelled in 2017 and filed a lawsuit arguing that her right to free speech was violated and thus the district was breaching the constitution.
With tension looming over the flag and standing for it in particular, Paxton jumped in to show his support for the conservative side. The move comes with Paxton facing re-election in November and polls are showing that race could be tight, according to NBC DFW. That led to Landry’s attorney Randall Kallinen to one clear conclusion.
“The reason he’s challenging this case is that it’s election time.”
It’s very rare for an attorney general to push himself into a civil rights case, especially one that involves the first amendment, but that is what Paxton has done when he released a statement in support of the school on Tuesday.
“School children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly held that parents have a fundamental interest in guiding the education and upbringing of their children, which is a critical aspect of liberty guaranteed by the Constitution.”
AG Ken Paxton defended the state law from a constitutional challenge, despite the fact he's treading carefully among several political issues. https://t.co/o93Lha3I8m
— KSAT 12 (@ksatnews) September 27, 2018
Landry specifically referenced the NFL protests, saying that was what inspired her and that the flag no longer stood for liberty and justice saying, “it’s obviously not what’s going on in America today.”
In response to Landry’s complaint, the school district responded.
“This isn’t the NFL.”
Not being the NFL could create a legal problem for the school district, as the Supreme Court has held previously that private enterprises can limit free speech but a public enterprise, such as a school district, cannot. The case may come down to whether the court considers Landry’s action an expression of her free speech.
Under Texas state law, which Paxton pointed to, standing for the pledge is required unless there has been a letter submitted by the parents stating that their child will not stand. This is something that allows for children of Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, to respect their religious beliefs.
“Requiring the pledge to be recited at the start of every school day has the laudable result of fostering respect for our flag and a patriotic love of our country,” said Paxton in a legal brief to the court.
The Supreme Court specifically argued against Paxton’s point, and indeed the law that Texas holds requiring students to stand for the pledge. In 1943, the court ruled that a requirement to stand was unconstitutional, and Kallinen has said he would be willing to take this case that far.