Leilani Thomas was known for staying seated during the Pledge of Allegiance, so on the first day of school at Lower Lake High School in California, many saw it as just a continuation of her ongoing protest.
But this time around, she had a new teacher. When her teacher saw her seated, she stopped to ask what was going on.
“She told me I was being disrespectful and I was pretty mad,” Thomas told KXTV. “She was being disrespectful to me also, saying I was making bad choices, and I don’t have the choice to sit during the pledge.”
According to KXTV, Thomas, who is Native American, has been sitting out the Pledge since she was a 2nd grader.
“It’s the reason, because of the history that happened here on my land, my people’s land,” Thomas said. “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.”
“My mom and my dad brought up what it meant to us and our people,” she said. “So I just started sitting down.”
When Thomas and a friend who also sat out the pledge received their first grades for the year, they noticed that their teacher had subtracted two points as punishment for their choice to sit out.
“If you really, really have an argument and feel so strongly about, then I need to see it written out,” the teacher said in a conversation that Thomas recorded. “Like, why? Why? Because here’s the thing — those people, they’re not alive anymore, your ancestors.”
After Thomas and her father brought the recording to school officials, word of the incident soon reached the district superintendent.
“Students don’t lose their first amendment rights when they walk in the door,” Donna Becnel told KPIX. “We are dealing with the teacher on this.”
Thomas plans to continue on with her protest.
Watch KXTV’s report in the video below: