PEARLAND, Texas (FOX 26) - The 'Star-Spangled Banner' flies over Alexander Middle School in Pearland, but ten-year-old Shayla Madria does not want to pledge allegiance to the flag. She says when she took a knee rather stand on her feet. the physical education teacher grabbed her, forced her to stand up and the principal screamed at her.
“I was hurt," says Madria with a soft voice. "I was so sad because It's not what you believe in, it's what I believe in."
Madria also says she was inspired to kneel because of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's ongoing protest. The NFL player has stirred up a lot of controversy and started a national debate for refusing to stand during the national anthem before games.
While few people deny that Kaepernick has the First Amendment right to protest, a lot of people disagree with him actually doing so. Community activist Quanell X is demanding that school administrators apologize in person.
“To treat this child and degrade this child and demonize this child and threaten this child in front of the entire student body was absolutely unbecoming," says Quanell X. "Professionals and administrators should be ashamed of themselves.”
What is the response from the Pearland Independent School District? It didn't happen quite that way, according to a written statement released by the district:
When a Pearland ISD student recently knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance, the teacher requested that the child stand, and the child did so. The teacher did not touch or discipline the student in any way, as alleged by Quanell X. The student’s parent initially told campus administrators that the child should stand as well.
When Pearland ISD superintendent Dr. John Kelly learned of the situation, he determined that students may, by Texas law, opt out of reciting the pledge based on their parents’ consent.
The Pearland ISD student handbook contains the following policy about reciting of the pledges to the U.S. and Texas flags:
As a parent you may request that your child be excused from participation in the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas flag. The request must be in writing. State law does not allow your child to be excused from participation in the required minute of silence or silent activity that follows. [See Pledges of Allegiance, A Minute of Silence and policy EC(LEGAL).]
Madria's mother stands by her for not standing.
“When someone disrespects you, you make a stand and when you take a stand, you don’t have to be violent," says the mother.
Was her protest worth it and will she do it again?
“I would say yes.," says Madria. "Yeah?”