In February, a sixth-grader in Maryland made national headlines for taking a knee in protest when the Pledge of Allegiance was being recited at her school. On Wednesday morning, Hillary Clinton tweeted her support for the kneeling protest, and praised the sixth-grader's for taking a political stand at such a young age.
"It takes courage to exercise your right to protest injustice, especially when you’re 11!," Clinton tweeted on Wednesday in response to a video about Maryland sixth grader Mariana Taylor. "Keep up the good work Mariana."
This isn't the first time Clinton has supported a kneeling protest. In October 2017, she defended NFL players who kneeled during the national anthem, saying that they were merely protesting "in a peaceful way against racism and injustice in our criminal system."
Taylor kneeled during the Pledge of Allegiance for three days at Catonsville Middle School in February, according to the Washington Post; she later said that she was inspired to do so by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and was doing so in large part to protest the Trump administration.
"I decided to kneel because there is a lot of things I really don't agree with in the country happening — racism, sexism and the person in the White House, particularly the wall — it's not OK," Taylor said in a statement released by the ACLU in May. "I feel like it's important to stand up for what I believe in and I want to inspire other people to do it too."
But according to Taylor, a teacher reprimanded her for her protest on the third day, telling her that the rules required her to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and that she should honor the positive things about America, rather than worrying about the negative. Taylor told the ACLU that her teacher mentioned having family members overseas, and accused her of disrespecting the country by kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance.
Baltimore County Public Schools disputes this account, however, saying in a statement that "we know of no BCPS student who has been reprimanded or punished for non-participation in patriotic observances."
"We fully support students’ rights and encourage student voice as articulated in board policy," the school system added.
Nevertheless, Taylor says that she left the classroom in tears, and that when she gave her account of the incident to another teacher, she was advised to see the school's guidance counselor. According to the ACLU, the guidance counselor said that they supported Taylor, but also suggested that she give a classroom presentation justifying her views. Later, the school's principle acknowledged to Taylor's mother that the school's policy on the Pledge of Allegiance was old and probably needed to the updated, the ACLU said.
Rule 6307 of Baltimore County Public Schools states that every school's principle is responsible for "requiring all students and teachers to stand and face the flag and while standing give an approved salute and recite in unison the pledge of allegiance." It also states that "any student or staff member who wishes to be excused from the flag salute shall be excused," but makes no mention of how teachers should address in-classroom protests. The ACLU is asking that the school system rewrite this rule to make clear that students wishing to "symbolically express concerns during the Pledge" are allowed to do so.
"The Supreme Court has been very clear that students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse door," the ACLU's Jay Jimenez said in a statement.