Since the start of the school year, Leilani Thomas and a friend have chosen not to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance at California's Lower Lake High School and seemingly faced no repercussions. Then came last Friday. Leilani—who is Native American and says the American flag represents the horrific suffering of her ancestors—says her teacher knocked the students' participation scores from a 5 to a 3 for their decision. "Those people, they're not alive anymore. Your ancestors," the teacher can be heard telling Leilani in a recording the teen made, per KPIX. "She says that [the flag] represents the military and that they risked their lives for us," adds Leilani, who says she's been sitting for the pledge since 2nd grade.
"And I always tell her, 'Well, my people risked our lives for our land, for our freedom. For our rights.'" The teacher—whom ABC News notes only began teaching in the Lake County school district this school year—"told me I was being disrespectful," Leilani tells KXTV. Leilani says she, too, felt disrespected, having been told "I was making bad choices and I don't have the choice to sit down during the pledge." Leilani complained to a principal and she and her friend have since been moved to another class. "We are dealing with the teacher on this," says the school district superintendent, noting "students don't lose their First Amendment rights when they walk in the door." (A US soccer star is the latest of many sports figures to refuse to stand during the national anthem.)