LOWER LAKE, CA --A teacher lowered participation grades of two students because they opted out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in school.
While the teen students had their grades suffer because of their stance, now the school district superintendent is standing behind the young women.
Leilani Thomas won't say the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag. She is a Native American and argues the stars and stripes aren't hers.
"It's the reason, because of the history that happened here. On my land. My people's land," said Thomas. "I go by that and I don't agree with it. So I'm not going to stand for the people who did this to my people."
Since the first day of school, Thomas and her friend chose to exercise their rights as Americans not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in their first period class.
When the girls got their grades Friday, their participation scores were docked from a five to a three because they refused to stand. Thomas recorded her teacher's explanation in class.
"Here's the deal. If you really, really have an argument and feel so strongly about, then I need to see it written out - your argument - in an essay form," the teacher is heard saying. "Like, why? Why, because here's the thing; those people, they're not alive anymore. Your ancestors."
Thomas and her father took that recording to school administrators. The girls have since been moved to another teacher.
In the meantime, Thomas and her friend hope their stance serves as a real life lesson on free speech.
"She says that it represents the military and that they risked their lives for us," said Thomas. "And I always tell her, 'Well, my people risked our lives for our land, for our freedom. For our rights."
The Lake County school district superintendent declined to speak on camera, but told KPIX 5 she is aware of the issue. In a statement, she said, "Students don't lose their First Amendment rights when they walk in the door. We are dealing with the teacher on this."
At this point, it is too early to tell what the repercussions might be for the teacher and, because it is a personnel matter, the consequences may not be made public.
KPIX reports that Thomas, her family and her entire village will be attending the next school board meeting next month to make sure that something does happen.