A young Cherokee woman was pulled from her class on Tuesday after refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance, the Indian Country Media Network reported.
Cierra Fields, an accomplished senior at Fort Gibson High in Oklahoma, says she was questioned and berated by her teacher angrily in front of students in her class.
“After I said I was not going to participate, my teacher raised her voice and said she refused to educate ungodly and unpatriotic students. She was angry and told me that perhaps I needed to take an online course in lieu of the class,” Fields told ICMN.
“After I refused to pledge to the flag, my teacher removed me from class by taking me into the hallway in direct view of some of the students. My teacher questioned me and screamed at me about how her father missed a year of her life in Vietnam and how her husband was an Afghanistan war veteran,” Fields said.
Fields was also interrogated by her teacher for disrespecting her father’s own military service as a 10-year U.S. Army veteran.
“Not only has my family served in all branches of the military, they served for my right to not pledge or stand. I don’t stand or pledge because the flag is an idol and I consider pledging to an object idolatry. As a Native youth, I do not agree that there is liberty and justice for all people,” she explained.
Fort Gibson’s principal, Gary Sparks, gave an entirely different account of the event, saying no student was pulled from class, and that it is a student’s right not to stand during the allegiance.
“We did not have any students removed from class for not standing. During third period, we always do the flag salute and the teacher just asked (Fields) why she didn’t want to. (The student) explained why she didn’t and asked if she could come down to the office, which she was allowed to do,” he told ICMN.
“Everyone has a right not to stand if they don’t want to. We have a couple of students who do that too; so they do that quietly while we do the flag salute and we just move on,” he added.
Fields’ mother, Terri Henderson-Fields, was greatly outraged about the incident.
“Cierra’s father Richard served the Army for 10 years. My father served in Vietnam. My father-in-law served in Korea. My grandfather served in WWII. We have given blood, sweat, tears and even lives for this country and Cierra’s right not to pledge,” she told ICMN through email.
The family is demanding the teacher and school apologize. They are also requesting that the school invite a traditional Cherokee representative to speak at the school’s graduation ceremony this summer, when Fields is set to graduate.