LOWER LAKE (KPIX 5) — A Lake County teacher is facing consequences for lowering participation grades of two students who opted out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

While the teen students had their grades suffer because of their stance, now the school district superintendent is standing behind the young women.

Leilani Thomas won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Lower Lake High School American flag, or any other American flag. She is a Native American and argues the Stars and Stripes aren’t hers.

“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.”

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Since the first day of school, Thomas and her friend chose to exercise their rights as Americans not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in their first period class. Their teacher took exception to it.

When the girls got their grades Friday, their participation scores were docked from a five to a three because they refused to stand. Thomas recorded her teacher’s explanation in class.

“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.”

Thomas and her father took that recording to school administrators. The girls have since been moved to another teacher.

In the meantime, Thomas and her friend hope their stance serves as a real life lesson on free speech.

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

The Lake County school district superintendent declined to speak on camera, but told KPIX 5 she is aware of the issue. In a statement, she said, “Students don’t lose their First Amendment rights when they walk in the door. We are dealing with the teacher on this.”

At this point, it is too early to tell what the repercussions might be for the teacher and, because it is a personnel matter, the consequences may not be made public.

Thomas, her family and her entire village will be attending the next school board meeting next month to make sure that something does happen.

Comments (48)
  1. you want the benefits of a free usa education but have no allegiance to it so go to a reservation school then, duh!!!

    1. A white person telling what a Native American can do??

      Colonialism for the win!

  2. Zuma Mom says:

    Injuns should put the past behind them and move on.
    They can’t/won’t do that, so they will continue to have problems in our

  3. whheydt says:

    This issue was settled by the US Supreme Court in 1943. The teacher is wrong whether she likes it or not. The kids are within their rights. They do not have to give a reason.

  4. carrbill says:

    Why was the teacher’s name not included in this article. Bias by omission?

  5. Notchko Yurok says:

    My family have not said the pledge of allegiance for 45 years here at school on our reservation. My uncle told us as Native Americans we wouldn’t salute or pledge to the flag that led soldiers that were committing genocide against us. We live in Northern California so we heard from our own great grandmother had to hide in the rocks on the coast from the white men shooting at them. Trying to kill them. I did stand up but never crossed my heart or spoke. I told my son’s the exact same thing my uncle told me. The truth!

  6. Notchko Yurok says:

    My mother is a veteran that served our country proudly by the way.

  7. Lao Po says:

    You want to be a “sovereign nation” act like one. Don’t stick you hand in my pocket and then refuse to honor the nation that gives you that money. Do something productive and tax your people to pay for your own schools if you really want to be “sovereign”.

    Btw Notchko, did you refuse to say the pledge when you were in uniform (if that is even a true story)? Bet you didn’t. Hypocrite much.

    1. ihatepunks says:

      You got it twisted…..that money you speak of was stolen from them. They held the rights, mineral and otherwise to this land before it was settled. In fact we probably owe them trillions in mineral and water rights alone.

  8. Crystal Escalante says:

    Bottom Line: It’s illegal to force or punish those who do not recite or stand during the national anthem or the pledge of alliance. That’s what makes America so great! The freedom to not be forced to do something you do not believe in. It doesn’t matter the reason they do not decide to do it; pure and simple it’s their right to!

  9. According to the 1943 US Supreme Court decision in West Virginia State Board of Education versus Barnette there is no law enforcing standing for the Pledge of Allegiance or for any other patriotic rituals such as the playing of the National Anthem.

    Furthermore, public school officials may not compel anyone to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance nor for the playing of the National Anthem, and are enjoined from seeking punitive action against anyone who refuses to participate in such rituals.

  10. As a teacher in Silicon Valley I had a lot of foreign students. I said that they should not say the Flag Salute, but that they should stand to show respect for the ceremony. This is similar to what we’d do in the Navy when visiting a foreign nation – stand at attention to show respect but not pledge allegiance to a foreign flag / nation.

    1. Ditsy says:

      Legally, You had absolutely no right to tell them they should stand to show respect for that or any other ceremony. By doing so in your position of authority you unlawfully denied them their constitutional rights. You BROKE THE LAW. You demonstrated a breach of trust and professional misconduct. How is that a good thing to teach any young person?

  11. A person has the right to not pledge to the flag or stand for the national anthem. This does not mean they disrespect the country or are unpatriotic. If you believe that patriotism rests on doing these things you have a very narrow view of patriotism and obviously feel only those like you are patriotic. I refuse to say the pledge- why? Because god is a fiction and I do not pledge to a fiction. But other people can have other reasons not to and still love the country. If you require someto say these things it does not make them love the country more and in fact if it goes against the grain, you are just proving that maybe our country is not as free as you think it is.

  12. ogyu says:

    To be consistent, shouldn’t her protest include NOT exercising her rights as an American?

    1. Ditsy says:

      She is a Native American. She was an American before the invaders killed so many of her people. If you really want to discuss Consistency, how the heck does ANY school have the outrageous cheek to cry foul that someone exercises their right not to stand or pledge allegiance to a flag……especially when the flag displayed at the school is faded and torn? The flag on display is a disgrace!

  13. Joe Commentor says:

    Go to a reservation school, then…

  14. Stormwatch says:

    The pledge of allegiance was a marketing ploy to sell flags to schools. It’s true, look into it.

  15. Abel Feltes says:

    People claim to want freedom, but point out the genocidal history of the US to a bunch of “patriotic” numbskulls and watch the rights erode.

    That teacher should be fired and a bunch of you replying to this story need to crack a history book because you’re either terribly ignorant or intentionally calloused. If it’s the latter, may I suggest walking into traffic?

  16. This is why we need JESUS back in the schools. A normative set of American values must be taught to our nation’s youth, including respect for the nation, God, and the military.

  17. Ann Friauf says:

    When I was in grade school back in the 50’s, I refused to say the pledge of allegiance. I am white but was aware of racism from a young age. I refused to say “with liberty and justice for all” because I felt it wasn’t true. I never had problems with my teachers over the issue because saying the pledge of allegiance was optional, not required. When my kids were in grade school I made it clear to them that saying it was optional, and it was up to them what they wanted to do.

  18. Real Patriot says:

    How come no one here criticizing her for exercising her Constitutional right to remain silent during the pledge noticed the deplorable state of the flag she’s supposed to say the pledge to? The school is flying a torn flag!

    I’m far more offended by that then a student choosing to exercise one of the rights that flag is supposed to represent.

    That flag should be disposed of properly and replaced with one in good condition!

  19. Allen A. says:

    Unless we have suddenly become a communist dictatorship, there is no reason to force students to recite the pledge of allegiance. If our public schools were anything other than a “feel good safe space” that is more worried about avoiding offense to anyone, this might not happen. But the reasons why the English colonies revolted against the tyrant, King George, are not taught. The creation of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and what they really say are not explained. As a result, none of the children have any understanding of why the Pledge exists or why it is recited. And they will not ever feel that what the flag stands for is important in their lives or worthy of defending without that background.