A student at a Texas high school says he was given a two-day in-school suspension for refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, sparking a debate on social media about whether the school district violated the teen's First Amendment rights.
Needville High School sophomore Mason Michalec told KHOU.com he refused to stand for the Pledge because of his opposition to government spying.
"I’m really tired of our government taking advantage of us,” Michalec said. "I don’t agree with the NSA spying on us. And I don’t agree with any of those Internet laws."
The 15-year-old has refused to stand for the Pledge for most of the year, but he ran into trouble when a different teacher noticed he was staging a silent protest.
“And she told me, 'This is my classroom. This is the principal’s request. You’re going to stand,'" Michalec told the station. "And I still didn’t stand and she said she was going to write me up."
Michalec said that after he was punished with two days of in-school suspension, the principal warned him that he would face more suspensions if his protest continued.
"I’m angry and frustrated and annoyed that they would try to write me up for something I have the right to do," the teen told KHOU.com.
Some residents in the small town outside of Houston said the school made the right decision.
"The soldiers are out there, they’re doing their job and he should stand up," Needville resident Jo Castillo told the station. "You’ve got a lot of things here that a lot of people don’t have, that’s respect, that’s freedom."
Dean Reese, a war veteran, said the school is sending the wrong message.
"The kid’s well-spoken and he’s well-informed," Reese said. "It’s not like he’s ignorant, he’s not doing it to make people mad. He’s doing it because of his personal beliefs."
School officials declined to comment to KHOU.com on the incident.