- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2016

A California high school student who sat down during the Pledge of Allegiance has earned the support of her school district after a teacher reportedly knocked points off her participation grade.

Leilani Thomas, who is Native American, told a local ABC News affiliate that she has been silently protesting the pledge without issue since she was in second grade.

“My mom and my dad brought up what it meant to us and our people,” she said. “So I just started sitting down.”

But for the first time — amid backlash over protests by San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who chose to kneel during the National Anthem — a teacher at Lower Lake High School took issue with Leilani’s protest and docked her participation grade, ABC reported.

“She told me I was being disrespectful and I was pretty mad,” Leilani told the station. “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.”

Konocti School District Superintendent Donna Becnel stood by Leilani and another student who also chose to sit. She said its district policy to respect the students’ free speech, ABC reported.

“They have the same rights when they walk into the schoolhouse than anybody else does,” Ms. Becnel said.

Leilani and the other student have been reassigned to another class, the school said. It was unclear whether the teacher faced disciplinary action.

Leilani said she will continue to sit and is getting support from many of her classmates, ABC reported.

“I’m understanding it more that it means a lot and to a lot of my people also,” she said.

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