Schools Suck: 9th grader files lawsuit, says teacher pushed her against a wall for not saying Pledge of Allegiance

Marissa Barnwell of Columbia, S.C., says she was physically accosted by a teacher for not stopping to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

Now, the ninth grader’s parents are suing the teacher, principal, and school district, as well as state education officials, claiming the incident violated her civil rights and First Amendment rights to free speech.

“I was completely and utterly disrespected,” Barnwell said at a news conference Thursday, according to local paper The State. “No one has apologized, no one has acknowledged my hurt. … The fact that the school is defending that kind of behavior is unimaginable,” she added.

The incident occurred at River Bluff High School in Lexington on Nov. 29, when the 15-year-old was walking to class. As the Pledge of Allegiance played over the school’s intercom system, Barnwell claims a teacher yelled at her and pushed her against a wall for not stopping to recite the pledge.

Barnwell was subsequently sent to the principal’s office, where she feared she was in trouble. But then, she says, the principal sent her back to class without a full explanation.

A South Carolina state law requires public schools to play the Pledge of Allegiance every day at a certain time. However, the same law also prohibits punishing anyone who chooses not to recite the pledge, so long as they are not disrupting or infringing on others’ rights to do so.

Barnwell says she was walking quietly to class and was in disbelief when she was confronted, adding that she responded, “Get your hands off of me.” Barnwell also said that she later called her parents in tears, and never received an apology from any parties involved.

The Lexington School District said its attorney is currently working on the case and did not have any additional comments at this time.

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