Theodore's World: Florida Student Suspended for Telling Muslim Student To Stand For The Pledge of Allegiance

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August 30, 2009

Florida Student Suspended for Telling Muslim Student To Stand For The Pledge of Allegiance

Heather Lawrence, 16, was suspended from Springstead High School after telling a Muslim student to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Flap over flag, hijab leads to suspension of Hernando student

By Tony Marrero,
St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Spring Hill

Heather Lawrence didn't know the name of the girl with the Muslim head covering, or where she was from.

But as Lawrence walked by a classroom at Springstead High School on Wednesday, the 16-year-old junior did know one thing: The girl wasn't standing for the Pledge of Allegiance.

Lawrence, an JROTC member who plans to enlist in the Army next summer, says she was aghast.

"That's one of the most disrespectful things you can do," Lawrence recalled Friday. "Even the kids who are anarchists, who hate our government, still have respect to stand."

A few bells later, Lawrence was on her way to English class when she saw the girl wearing a hijab in the hallway. Lawrence confronted her.

She told her she should stand for the pledge. And, according to Lawrence's own account and a school referral on the incident, said, "Take that thing off your head and act like you're proud to be an American."

A teacher overheard the encounter. Now Lawrence is serving a five-day, out-of-school suspension, and her parents are considering legal action.

"You have someone in the States who is able to enjoy our educational and health care systems, yet it's okay for them to be disrespectful, and it's not okay for my daughter to speak her mind," said Mark Lawrence, Heather's father. "That's her First Amendment right. That's her freedom of speech."

Springstead principal Susan Duval said school officials stand behind the punishment. Heather Lawrence violated the district's policy against bullying and harassment, Duval said. She was disciplined not for telling the girl to stand, but for her other comments — comments that Duval called atrocious.

"It makes me ill," she said. "That is not what this school is about. These students should feel safe and secure here. We may have differences of opinion, but no student should have to tolerate harassment."

After the incident, Lawrence was asked by a school staffer why she confronted the girl. "She began to rant that she was enlisting and was going to Iraq and that basically because the girl looks Middle Eastern, that makes her an enemy because all Iraqis are Middle Eastern," according to the referral signed by assistant principal Stephen Crognale.

Lawrence denies she said that or feels that way.

"Terrorists, regardless of who they are, what color they are, are the enemy," she said.

School officials would not disclose the identity of the girl. Duval said she wasn't sure if the girl is new to Springstead or why she didn't stand for the pledge.

Lawrence said the girl did not respond to her and simply walked away. Duval said the girl did not complain to school officials. Efforts by the St. Petersburg Times to find and reach her were unsuccessful Friday.

As she served her first day of suspension, Lawrence admitted Friday that telling the girl to take off her hijab was "a little over the edge." Her father agreed she shouldn't have said it.

"It wasn't meant to be a racial comment, and I wasn't trying to bash her religion," she said. "I didn't expect her to say (the pledge). I just expect her to stand up for it. If she had a problem with what I said, I'd be happy to apologize to her."

Mark Lawrence says the district needs to be taken to task for putting words into his daughter's mouth. He hopes to reverse the suspension and says he's talked to a lawyer friend of the family.

"I didn't raise my daughters to be prejudiced," he said, adding that the family dines often with friends of Iranian descent.

Heather Lawrence has her own unpleasant pledge memory.

She spent six months in Mexico while her father worked a contracting job and was booted out of a private school for not saying the pledge to the Mexican flag. But that was in Spanish — a language she doesn't know — and so she stopped trying to fake it. And, she says, she still stood up.

Flaps over flag pledging have set legal precedent. A 17-year-old junior at Boynton Beach High School refused to stand for the pledge and was removed from class, prompting a lawsuit and a ruling last year by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court struck down a provision of Florida law requiring civilians to stand for the pledge.

Ramzy Kiliç, executive director of the Tampa chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said he was concerned by Heather Lawrence's apparent cultural insensitivity.

But he also said he was surprised to hear that a Muslim would not stand for the pledge. There is no tenet in the religion that encourages Muslims not to do so. "That's her right," Kiliç said. "I myself believe she should have stood."

The hijab clearly made the girl a target, said Dr. Adel Eldin, a Brooksville cardiologist who practices in Spring Hill.

Eldin, who has been busy in August celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said he hopes school officials will seize the incident as a teachable moment about his faith.


Mark Lawrence thinks it's "absolutely ridiculous" that his daughter Heather has been suspended after telling another student wearing a Muslim head covering to "Take that thing off your head and act like you're proud to be an American" for refusing to stand or recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class.

Suspended ROTC student feels wronged

written by TONY HOLT

Hernando Today

Springstead junior thinks five-day suspension wasn’t warranted for telling Muslim student to ‘take that thing off your head.’

Heather Lawrence loves being in JROTC, loves her Marine Corps dad and loves her country.

On Wednesday, anger was the prevailing feeling in her heart when she noticed a student in another classroom had refused to stand during the Pledge of Allegiance. She also refused to recite it.

Heather, a junior at Springstead High School, glanced at the other students in the room, all of whom appeared uncomfortable, she said.

She saw her later in the day between class periods and told her, “Take that thing off your head and act like you’re proud to be an American.”

The student, whom Lawrence could not identify, was wearing a hijab, a head scarf or garment traditionally worn by Muslim women.

A teacher overheard Heather’s statement and told two other teachers. The incident made its way to Assistant Principal Steve Crognale, who called the 16-year-old into his office Friday morning, she said.

He made her wait outside while he called her father, Mark Lawrence.

Crognale told him the school was going to suspend his daughter for five days.

“I said, ‘That is absolutely ridiculous,’” recalled Lawrence, who would not repeat the expletives used during the phone conversation. “I thought it was very unfair.”

He asked Crognale to explain his justification for suspending his daughter.

“He said it was based on the grounds that she made a threat,” said Lawrence, who threw up his arms and shook his head.

He sat in his living room across from his daughter, who was dressed in her U.S. Army-issued uniform. She plans to attend basic training in the summer, return to Springstead for her senior year and pursue a career in the military.
Crognale, who did not return a message seeking comment, claimed the school’s written policy allowed him to suspend her for up to 10 days if he so chose, Lawrence said.

When Heather’s irate father pressed on and asked him to explain how her statement could be interpreted as a threat, Crognale “backed off” and said his daughter’s statement “caused mental duress” for the student, he said.

He conceded his daughter should have refrained from telling her to remove her hijab. Heather was less emphatic.

“I wish I didn’t say, ‘Take that thing off your head,’” she said. “Or maybe I shouldn’t have said it loud enough for the teacher to hear it.”

Her father, a former U.S. Marine, said he and his family have friends who are Iranian and African-American. It is a household that has sworn off racism of any kind, he said.

The original punishment issued by Crognale was five days. Mark Lawrence was under the impression Friday morning he had talked him down to three days. He returned to the school at 12:30 p.m. to pick up the paperwork and was told the original punishment still stood.

Heather Lawrence would have to remain at home for five school days because neither she nor her father would sign the agreement form. They refused to do so out of protest, they said. No threat was made. They insisted the school violated her First Amendment rights.

Lawrence has been suspended at least twice prior to Friday.

She was in the bathroom while another student smoked a cigarette a few feet away. A teacher searched her, found no contraband, but the school still suspended her, she said.
The second time occurred last year, when she missed some classes because of her JROTC commitments. She said she got permission from all of her teachers to miss class that day.
One of her teachers asked a student to go look for her. When she was not found, she reported her as an unexcused absence. She was suspended again.
"At Springstead, the answer to everything is to kick you out of school," Heather said

A call to Principal Susan Duvall was not returned Friday.

It is the second time in less than three months that Springstead has been involved in a First Amendment controversy. School administrators made last year's valedictorian rewrite her graduation speech because they felt it painted the school in a negative light.

The student agreed to rewrite it, but argued the school was being unreasonable and claimed at least one administrator threatened her. The story received national attention.

Heather's suspension means she might miss up to 18 weeks of JROTC activities, including a military ball and some program-sponsored community service.

"That really stinks because it is the only thing I do in school," she said.
She said her friends, relatives, fellow JROTC students and even a few school staffers were "absolutely livid" she was suspended over her comments.
"I'm not one to be a racist," Heather said.


Wild Thing's comment.......

My gut screams that this school does NOT like the ROTC, our military or our troops. Just what I think since they keep going after this student for such flimsy things and she stands out with her Dad being a Marine and her being in JROTC.

The school officials are the ones who should be bounced along with the smug muslim girl who won't even stand up for the Pledge Of Allegiance.

Oh effing carp...’teachable moment” we go again...this PC stuff is going to get us killed!.

‘teachable moment’ = re-education

9/11 was a teachable moment about his faith, so was the USS Cole and the Iranian hostage crisis. Those were enough for me.

Muslims are forcing us to play Cowboys & Muslims.

THERE IS A VIDEO OF THIS at the local ABC news website

Posted by Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 06:50 AM


Wild Thing:
I visited the site for the school. It opens to an EAGLE! Isn't that the universally known symbol of America and her freedoms? Why is this becoming freedom for the wierd and wacky, but not for our established values? For years, the liberals have caused the schools to throw GOD to the curb, and not allow Religion in the classroom. These days, this applies to Christians, and not to Muslims.
If these "educators", (term used very loosely), would but just study the United States Constitution and the facts leading up to the writing of it; they'd know more about "separation of church and state". They would know that this element of our great document concerns only that the government cannot determine which religion will be legal and accepted by government. It has nothing to do with a nativity scene on the courthouse lawn, saying "one nation under GOD", nor anything of that sort. But, since they have taken it upon themselves to distort the intention of the Constitution, one would think that they'd be bound to extend the same parameters to all religions, especially one as violent as Islam.
I would like to have contact with Heather and her family so that I could do up a design for her/them. She is a future hero of America, and we owe it to her to do all we can to help her maintain her spirits.

Posted by: Frankly Opinionated at August 30, 2009 08:42 AM

I watched part of a Pastor Manning video yesterday (I got his point without going the full 10 minutes--brave guy) that white people were getting tired of being pushed around and they were going to not take it anymore.

He was talking about Obama and blacks pulling out the race card, but his statement could as well have applied to all Christians vs. these touchy Muslims.

When you have liberals running the schools and the courts, it's hard to fight this stuff...but I believe our voices and votes can change that.

I totally agree it sounds like her ROTC affiliation is an issue, too.

Posted by: Eden at August 30, 2009 09:03 AM

Your right Eden, the only people without rights are the White Christian majority, and according to recent demographics we are the majority and Christian.

Our Republic doesn't work that way. At least until the last 6 months. But this has been coming for a long time. So many it is time for this generation to refresh our Liberty with the blood of Patriots and tyrants.

These Educators don't care about the Constitution. That's why they are who they are. From obama down to the lowest peon in the, "to be" Hitler youth.

You got Congressmen from all over country touting the Medical system in Cuba of all places, but notice also they never get Health Care in Cuba. But this time they have biten off more than they can chew.

Exactly teachable moment, for sure, re-education
The sooner we start slapping these people down, the sooner we can take the country back.

Posted by: Mark at August 30, 2009 11:24 AM

Lord, we need more and more of Americans like this girl and her father to stand up for our country. Thank you SO much for standing up and being a true American! I am so proud of this ROTC girl, soooo proud. I wish there were millions of girls and young people like her. To me she is already a HERO.

Posted by: Liz at August 30, 2009 11:46 AM

The muslim girl showed her dislike of America by not standing for the Pledge of Allegience. Heather had the First Amendment right to chastise the muslim girl for that. Heather ordering the muslim girl to take off her hajib was wrong, unless Heather just suggested it. Just as it would be wrong to order the removal of a Christan cross or Star of David.

I occasionally see muslim women in stores wearing hajibs. It pisses me off because I think islam is an enemy of America. Many of these women have an arrogant aura about them. A few don't. As much as I want to confront them, I don't. For two reasons. One, because they have a right to wear it, a right I fought for. Secondly, because I think they would maybe welcome a confrontation and I want to disappoint them by ignoring them. That being said, I have seen a few muslim women wearing hajibs who were actually polite and talkative to others in the store.

Posted by: TomR at August 30, 2009 12:54 PM

Take a just seemed fitting:

I've just completely HAD IT...completely

Posted by: Buzz Bannister at August 30, 2009 01:11 PM

Maybe not the remark about the hijab, but everything else Heather said is right-on. The school's attitude toward "reactionary" ROTC "troublemakers" shows clearly, though. They can't find or even identify the muslim girl, but they suspend Heather for any little thing she's even near. Teenagers say dumb (and even worse) things every day, so why the full slam on this? Teachable moment in deed: "These Educators don't care about the Constitution. That's why they are who they are."

Posted by: Anonymous at August 30, 2009 01:57 PM

The thing about her statement about the whatchamacallit on the girl's head it will be the focus of this story, not the REAL story that the muslim was unpatriotic (which to me equates to disrespect)...therefor dissing the country that protects her and gives her more freedom than she would ever have in any Islamic ruled country.

Friggin upside down America...yeah, we have had it. If you needed help, who would you call first? Best chance would be a Christian...but they are picked on because they are forgiving. I think we need more eye for an eye thinking these days. We have not been appreciated. Who the hell do they think works and pays for most of the help those in need get in this country?

Posted by: Eden at August 30, 2009 02:22 PM

When the girl refused to stand for the pledge, the teacher should have stopped right then and told the whole class that they will continue standing until little miss high horse stands up for the pledge. I remember a young girl in elementary school who decided to spin around while doing the pledge because she had a new dress on. The teacher made us all do it again because of that. The Muslim girl did start it by being obstinate. But we have to coddle these wackjobs because they're from another country and we have to be tolerant. Well, how about tolerance for those who live here? Give me a break with the zero tolerance policy. It sucks. I wish I could put my 7 year old in private school. The public school she goes to is not great for those who beat their own drums.

Posted by: Lynn at August 30, 2009 04:05 PM

At our LE union meeting last Thursday, we had objection to opening our meeting with a prayer, so we voted to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. We did and faced the U.S. flag and my favorite part was when I yelled out "... one nation, UNDER GOD...."
God won again! IN GOD WE TRUST 1776 - 2009

Posted by: darthcrUSAderworldtour07 at August 30, 2009 05:05 PM

Check out the Wiki on our Secretary of Education. From Hyde Park, one of his childhood friends was R. Kelly, his accent led people to believe he was of AA buddy of Obama.

I haven't looked up his other junk, what he's associated with, but I'm already ready to puke on my diploma.

Posted by: Eden at August 30, 2009 05:32 PM

Frankly, good point,your right, I love the opening
for the website for the school. And how
odd for them to use an Eagle when the
schol itself does not behave like they
believe in freedom.

I have no idea how to contact her, but if
you can find out that would be so awesome.
I bet she would love a desgin by you, I love
your designs.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:25 PM

Eden, Manning is so awesome, I have a lot
of respect for him. Thank you for sharing
about that Eden.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:27 PM

Mark,huge DITTO!

"The sooner we start slapping these people down, the sooner we can take the country back."

This girl Heather was brave and it
came natually to her to just speak out. I
love that, she didn't go into all the stupid
what if's. She saw a situation, felt it was
wrong and said something.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:30 PM

Liz, I agree, your so right.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:31 PM

Tom, yes it all depends on the
situation. I doubt if this Heather would
have said a word if the Muslim girl had just
stood for the Pledge. That was her main gripe
she only brought in the head ware because she
was so ticked about the other thing.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:35 PM

Buzz, thank you that was wonderful.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:37 PM

Anonymous, you are so right. They don't
even name the other girl in any of the

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:42 PM

Eden, exactly, their agenda has them
only focusing on that instead of
what this really is about.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:43 PM

Lynn, what a great idea, yes that is
what the teacher should have done.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:44 PM

Darth, heh heh that is neat how you did that.
Thank you for sharing about your meeting.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:46 PM

Eden, I feel the same way,thanks for the
link about him.

Posted by: Wild Thing at August 30, 2009 11:48 PM