Atheist Student Who Sat During Pledge of Allegiance Wins $90k Harassment Lawsuit

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A former Texas High School student who claimed a teacher harassed her for sitting during the pledge of allegiance has won a $90,000 settlement. 

On Mar. 29, the civil rights group American Atheists announced they had successfully reached a settlement with 12th-grade sociology teacher Benjie Arnold at Klein Oak High School. 

During the one-minute pledge, each student may “reflect, pray, meditate or engage in another silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student,” according to the Texas Education Code.

American Atheists said that Arnold singled her [ the student ] out” and retaliated against her for sitting out the pledge.” They also added that Arnold went on an extended tirade, offering to pay students to move to Europe if they didn’t like living in America. 

The Texas Association of School Boards, a risk pool funded by school districts in the state, agreed to pay $90,000 to settle the case before trial.

The suit was filed in 2017 and claimed the former student had been harassed by teachers and administrators over her refusal to recite the pledge due to her objection to the words “under God,” according to ABC13.

President of American Atheists Nick Fish said the former student had been harassed for years and described her situation as “particularly appalling.”

Fish said in a statement “Nonreligious students often face bullying or harassment for expressing their deeply held convictions.” He continued “No one should have to endure the years of harassment, disrespect, and bullying our client faced. The fact this happened in a public school and at the hands of staff who should know better is particularly appalling. After nearly five years of litigation, the defendant finally made the only smart decision and agreed to settle this case.”

Litigation counsel at American Atheists Geoffrey T. Blackwell stated that this settlement serves as a reminder the students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the classroom.



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