Atheists sue TX school

M.O. suffered harassment for many years, her rights being violated by her teachers
Texas Atheist student was disciplined for not standing during pledge. Teacher says not standing for pledge of allegiance is “disrespectful”.

A federal lawsuit was filed by American Atheists in U.S. District Court for Texas' Southern District. The suit was filed on behalf of “M.O.,” a teenager who complained of long-term harassment by school officials. They did so as she remained seated when the Pledge of Allegiance was played. M.O. is not the student's real name. Her name was changed to protect her privacy.

American Atheists state that these incidents violate the First Amendment tenets like free speech and religious establishment and its free exercise. They pointed out that the actions of the District are also against Texas law. What's worse, the organization said, that the school teachers utterly failed to respect the student's right to stay seated. The administration of the school also did not help her.

The lawsuit states in detail how M.O. was disciplined multiple times by her public school officials. The harassment went on for many years, the perpetrators being her teachers and also the school administration. M.O. was also forced to transfer classes, and bullied by her classmates. LaShan Arceneaux, her mother, tried many times to resolve this issue with the school administrators with no effect.

M.O.'s harassment reached a new high in September 2017. A teacher specially targeted M.O. for her continued refusal to take part in the Pledge. The concerned teacher said that those who do not take part are not appreciative and also disrespectful towards the United States. He added that non-participants only take from society, comparing non-participants with Soviet communists, Islamic faith members keen to install Sharia law in the United States. The teacher equated non-participants of the pledge with those people who condone pedophilia.

The lawsuit was filed to seek a declaratory judgment that the rights enjoyed by M.O. were violated. It also includes compensatory, punitive, and exemplary damages being awarded against individual defendants and legal fees. This lawsuit also asks that an order be passed so that Klein Independent School District can inform the employees of the school of all the obligations they have under the Constitution. These relate to the participation of students in Pledge of Allegiance. Randall L. Kallinen has been appointed by American Atheists as local counsel. He has deep experience in church-state separation and civil rights cases in Texas.

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