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South Carolina student’s parents sue over Pledge of Allegiance controversy at school

Marissa Barnwell, the student, said during a news conference on Thursday that she was walking quietly to her class at River Bluff High School in Lexington, South Carolina and decided not to stop walking to recite the pledge or a moment of silence.

A teacher at the school allegedly yelled at her, confronted her, and pushed her against a wall nearby.

“I was just in disbelief,” Barnwell said, recalling that she told the teacher “Get your hands off of me.”

Barnwell was then sent to the principal’s office, which she said was humiliating because she feared she was in trouble.

The principal promised to look at the video of the encounter and sent her back to class, but Barnwell said he never let her know that the teacher was wrong and she was right.

“I was completely and utterly disrespected. No one has apologized, no one has acknowledged my hurt. … The fact that the school is defending that kind of behavior is unimaginable.”

Barnwell, 15, said at a news conference

Barnwell’s parents have filed a lawsuit against the River Bluff High School teacher, principal, Lexington School District 1, as well as the South Carolina Education Department in federal court, stating that their daughter’s First Amendment and civil rights were violated.

A state law passed more than 30 years ago requires public schools to play the Pledge of Allegiance at a specific time every day.

But that law also prohibits punishing anyone who refuses to recite the pledge as long as they are not disruptive or infringe on others.

“The thing that’s beautiful about America is we have freedoms,” said Tyler Bailey, the family’s lawyer.

“Students in our schools should feel safe, they should not be feel threatened for exercising their constitutional rights.”

Barnwell said she called her parents in tears and they said the teacher, principal or district never responded.

Barnwell’s family also released the school surveillance video of the encounter that shows the teacher confronting the teen.

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Written by Jamil Johnson