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South Carolina high school student says teacher assaulted her for not saying Pledge of Allegiance

March 13, 2023
The girl, 15, who attends River Bluff High in Lexington, S.C., says she was walking in a hallway when a teacher pushed her against a wall for not reciting the pledge.

A 15-year-old student at a high school in Lexington, S.C., says she was physically assaulted by a teacher after she refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The Columbia State reports that the parents of the girl, Marissa Barnwell, have filed a federal lawsuit against the teacher, Nicole Livingston, and Lexington School District One over the incident.

The suit contends the teacher's actions violated Marissa's constitutional rights.

According to the lawsuit, Marissa, an honor roll student at River Bluff High School, was walking in the hallway on her way to class in November when the Pledge of Allegiance began to play over the intercom. The student refrained, in a “non-disruptive manner,” to acknowledge the pledge as she walked to her classroom.

Livingston began yelling and demanded that Marissa stop to acknowledge the pledge, then physically assaulted her by pushing her against a wall, according to the suit. Livingston then escorted her to the principal’s office to be punished.

Marissa said she was the only African American in the hallway that morning, and she was targeted because of that. No other student was confronted by the teacher. River Bluff is a majority-white school.

Under South Carolina law, anyone who does not want to participate in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance is exempt and cannot be penalized. People are allowed to express nonparticipation in any way that does not infringe on the rights of others or disrupt school activities.

About the Author

Mike Kennedy | Senior Editor

Mike Kennedy, senior editor, has written for AS&U on a wide range of educational issues since 1999.

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