Student exercises First Amendment rights

Knopp says she was removed from class after protests

Sophomore Callie Knopp has silently remained seated during the Pledge of Allegiance this school year for what she says are personal and religious-based reasons. However, on Sept. 28, she said she was permanently removed from a seminar roster and asked to leave the classroom for the same protest.

Knopp made her story public in a Facebook post and administration has denied multiple requests from the Newtonian for comment on this story.

“I did not stand for the pledge when I first got in there. She started saying that, if I didn’t stand for the pledge or say it, I would be kicked out of the class. So, I started standing for the Pledge and did that for like a month. I did not feel comfortable doing it, so one day I just sat down again. She kicked me out of the class,” Knopp said.

Principal Lisa Moore addressed the incident in an email to staff the following day.

“Students do have the right to freedom of speech; therefore, it is unconstitutional to require them to stand,” the email said in part. “I do ask that students not be allowed to turn their backs to the flag. I have had several conversations in recent days with students about maintaining respect for the United States of America and for the American flag. I don’t believe that an issue needs to be made of this behavior.”

Knopp said when she was placed in an alternate seminar following the incident, there was a discrepancy in the reasoning provided by administration.

“At first, they were saying that it is [the teacher’s] rule if she wants you to stand, then you have to stand. I think they figured out that you really cannot kick someone out of the classroom for that, so then they started changing it to ‘you were being disruptive’,” Knopp said.

Lauren Bonds, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas, provided legal insight on the extent of students’ First Amendment rights, saying the issue is clearly defined by the Supreme Court dating back to 1943.

“Teachers cannot remove students for refusing to stand or participate in the pledge. Students have first amendment rights to sit for the pledge, or if they decide not to say the pledge. This is a well established law,” Bonds said. “Schools cannot punish students for refusing to stand unless it
materially interferes with other people’s ability to say the pledge.”

Knopp was absent from school for the week following the incident. On Oct. 9, she returned to her original seminar.

“They put me into [an alternative] class. I went in there one time. Then, I was gone for a week. I came back to [the original seminar]. They said once the class is calmed down, which no one was really riled up, then I could come back,” Knopp said.

However, some students in Knopp’s seminar said it was clear that she was permanently removed from the roster.

“She is not even enrolled into our seminar anymore, and she comes back. She knew that she was not supposed to be in there. She knew she was not supposed to be in [that] seminar,”a student in the seminar said.

Upon returning to the seminar, Knopp was then asked to leave and removed from class a second time. Knopp describes the incident publicly in another Facebook post.

“Today I went back to that class after a week of being gone from school to show that I will put up a fight for my rights, call it a freaking sit-in if you want. I don’t care. I sat quietly and did work. I obviously didn’t stand for the pledge. Administration was called down to remove me from class… and then was threatened to be arrested,” Knopp’s Facebook post read. “In the end, I got dragged out of class very violently by an officer. I was pinched very hard on my arm and shoved very hard almost to the point where I felt I was going to fall many times while walking to the office.”

Knopp received a two day suspension following the second incident. Administration stated they could not comment because it was a behavior and privacy issue.

“They said you are going to be suspended for ‘failing to comply.’ I was like, ‘okay, I understand I’m not on her list. But I am not on her list for this reason [protesting during the pledge],” Knopp said.

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