A Houston-area student won a $90,000 settlement after being "harassed and bullied" by a teacher there over her refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The student abstained, according to her lawsuit, because she objected to the addition of "Under God" to the pledge in the 1950s and her belief that "liberty and justice for all" has not been secured for people of color.
Despite knowing that the student was exempt from the pledge, the teacher, identified in the suit as Benjie Arnold, singled out the student and threatened to fail her for not observing the pledge. According to the release, Arnold told the student that what she did left him "no option but to give you a zero, and you can have all the beliefs and resentment and animosity that you want."
Arnold also offered to pay students to move students to Europe if they didn't like living in America, as evidenced by an audio recording of the incident. Due to the incessant harassment, the student temporarily withdrew to be homeschooled. However, the harassment continued and intensified when she returned to Klein Oak, the release said.
Benjie Arnold tried to assert qualified immunity during the lawsuit, but the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said it was well-established that teachers cannot retaliate against a student for refusing to participate in flag ceremonies.
On one occasion, Arnold played Christian music in the classroom and "stared at [her] continuously as the song played."
On another, Arnold tried to force the teen to recite out the pledge by assigning it to her as a class project—despite being warned by the school principal not to do so.
Arnold gave her a zero for the assignment.
Arnold then went into a diatribe in class about lack of patriotism, as well as about communism, supporters of Sharia law, foreigners who do not assimilate into American culture, and sex offenders.
Arnold was the lone defendant in the case—a judge removed the school from the case in an earlier hearing—and the Houston Chronicle reports that an association representing Texas school districts agreed to the settlement and paid for his defense.