Texas student alleging harassment over sitting during pledge gets $90K: 'Communists'

The former student says she was compared to communists and told to leave the U.S.

NEWYou can now listen to Fox News articles!

A former Texas high school student who claimed she was harassed for opting out of the Pledge of Allegiance received a $90,000 settlement from one of her former teachers. 

"Throughout her time in high school, the student exercised her constitutional right to decline to participate in the Pledge out of her objection to the words, ‘Under God,’ and her belief that the United States does not adequately guarantee ‘liberty and justice for all,’ especially for people of color," nonprofit group, American Atheists, announced in a press release Tuesday. An attorney with American Atheists filed the suit on behalf of the student in 2017. 

The former student, identified only as M.O., said she faced harassment from teachers and students at Klein Oak High School, including being compared to communists and being told to leave the U.S.

Klein Oak High School in Texas (Google Maps)

Klein Oak High School in Texas (Google Maps) (Google Maps )

HARVARD APPOINTS 'ATHEIST' AS PRESIDENT OF UNIVERSITY CHAPLAINS - NOT EVERYONE IS HAPPY

"He first started out by saying if you sit for the pledge you take from this country and you're unappreciative but then he goes onto compare people who sit for the pledge to Communists. He says that you want to be in America you need to assimilate to essentially our values, and that if you sit, you're not doing that," the student said of one of her teachers back in 2017.

M.O. began sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance in 2014 when she was a freshman. 

HISTORY: THE PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

"The first reason I sit is because obviously it is my constitutional right, but I also believe that we live in a country where there isn't justice and freedom for all and so I'm not going to stand for a pledge that says there is when there really isn't," the student said in 2017.

U.S. Army Veteran Buddy Laddin raised the flag at an event hosted at the New Orleans Veterans Medical Center over the holiday weekend.

U.S. Army Veteran Buddy Laddin raised the flag at an event hosted at the New Orleans Veterans Medical Center over the holiday weekend. (iStock)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 1943 case West Virginia Bd. of Ed. v. Barnette that it is unconstitutional to require students to stand. Students are allowed to opt out of standing or reciting the pledge if their parents make a written request, M.O.'s attorney, Geoffrey Blackwell, of American Atheists. 

M.O.’s 12th grade sociology teacher Benjie Arnold settled the suit, according to American Atheists. He was accused of harassing M.O. over two years and threatening to flunk her for not taking part in the Pledge of Allegiance. He was also allegedly recorded offering to pay students to move to Europe if they didn’t like the United States. 

CALIFORNIA TEACHER BOASTS NOT HAVING AMERICAN FLAG, TELLS STUDENTS TO PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO GAY PRIDE FLAG

M.O. suffered from emotional distress and panic attacks caused by the harassment, according to the lawsuit. She eventually left the school and was homeschooled, but returned and continued facing discrimination, according to the suit. 

An empty classroom.

An empty classroom. (iStock)

The nonprofit Texas Association of School Boards paid $90,000 to resolve the case before it went to trial in Houston, according to the press release. 

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

"Nonreligious students often face bullying or harassment for expressing their deeply held convictions," Nick Fish, president of American Atheists, said according to the press release. "No one should have to endure the years of harassment, disrespect, and bullying our client faced.