California teen who declined to stand for Pledge of Allegiance had grade lowered

LOWER LAKE, Cal. (KRON) — A Lower Lake teen who declined to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance is now finding herself in the middle of a much bigger debate.

It all started recently when she said her teacher disciplined her for not standing. The punishment was drastically lowering her grade, she said.

Then, the school district got involved.

And now, the teen is receiving national attention as well as classmates asking for her autograph.

“The teacher was giving out grades, and then, she told me that she lowered it to a C- because of my participation, (for being) disrespectful, for not standing for the Pledge,” freshman Leilani Thomas said.

Leilani Thomas goes to Lower Lake High School. She said she was really taken back recently when her homeroom teacher knocked her down two grades because she declined to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, especially since she has been doing this since the second grade.

“I have a reason to not stand,”  Thomas said. “And she makes it seem like I don’t have a reason. You could say it’s because of what they did to my people–and are still doing to my people.”

Leilani is Native American. She said her parents brought her up to stand for her beliefs.

Her story has made headlines in the local paper and a national talk show. Even KRON4’s partner CNN gave Thomas a call.

Thomas said some have compared her actions to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and his recent actions to kneel, as a way to bring awareness to several high-profile fatal officer-involved shootings.

After Leilani got in trouble, the principle found out. Then, the district stepped in.

“We stand by students’ free speech rights, First Amendment rights. And we do not make any student stand for the Pledge if they do not want to,” Superintendent Donna Becnel said.

Leilani’s grades were raised, and she has since been switched to a different teacher.

She says through the years, no one has said much about her sitting rather than standing.

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