The Young Woman Suing Her Former Teacher For Making Her Stand For The Pledge Receives Good News

@rmarmion via Deposit Photos, KleinISD

In 2017, Mari Oliver was a senior in high school at Klein Oak High School in Harris County, about 30 miles north of Houston, Texas. At school, students say the Pledge of Allegiance, but Oliver’s mother submitted a note to the school excusing her daughter from saying the Pledge because it goes against their beliefs. 

Oliver objects to the words “Under God.” She also doesn’t feel that the words “freedom and justice for all” are true especially for people of color.

In 1943, the United States Supreme Court ruled that students can’t be forced to say the Pledge or salute the American flag. In addition, in the state of Texas there is a law that says students can choose to sit out the Pledge if a parent or guardian has submitted a written request, as Oliver’s mother did.

One’s of Oliver’s high school teachers didn’t honor her right to sit out the Pledge. Instead, 12th grade sociology teacher Benjie Arnold gave his entire class, including Oliver, an assignment to write the words to the Pledge.

According to American Atheists, the group that represented Oliver’s case against Arnold and the school, Arnold didn’t excuse Oliver from the assignment to write the Pledge. Instead, he told her, “What you’ve done is leave me no option but to give you a zero, and you can have all the beliefs and resentment and animosity that you want.”

Now, five years later, the case has finally been settled out of court. According to American Atheists, Arnold agreed to the settlement of $90,000, which was funded by Texas Association of School Boards, which is a risk pool funded by school districts in Texas.

In a statement, Nick Fish, the president of American Atheists, explained, “After nearly five years of litigation, the defendant finally made the only smart decision and agreed to settle this case.”

Texas civil rights attorney Randall Kallinen stated, “It is incredible—the time and money spent by the Klein Independent School District to stop a student’s free speech.” He added, “School staff need to teach the Constitution, not violate it.”

Arnold’s attorney has not responded to the statement from American Atheists, but according to a Klein Independent School District representative, the school district did not enter into a settlement but was awarded summary judgment.

Do you think it was a violation of Oliver’s rights to require her to complete an assignment to write the Pledge of Allegiance? Does it surprise you that it took five years for this case to be resolved?