A South Carolina high school teacher has been accused of assaulting a 15-year-old student who quietly refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, according to a federal lawsuit per NBC News.
Marissa Barnwell, 15, was walking to class in the hallway of River Bluff High School on November 29 when the Pledge of Allegiance was played through the campus intercom.
While some students stopped to recite the pledge, Barwell "elected to continue walking to her class and refrain from" participating, her family and attorney said.
Barnell, a ninth-grader, was walking "silently in a non-disruptive manner to her class," when special education teacher Nicole Livingston violated her "constitutional rights by yelling and demanding that M.B. stop walking and physically assaulting her by pushing M.B., on the wall and forcefully touching M.B., in an unwanted way without her consent," according to the lawsuit.
Barnwell said she was confused when the teacher was saying "stop" as she wasn't the only student walking in the hallway who didn't stop during the pledge.
"She grabs me by my shoulders and starts to push me up against the wall and she like, she snaps my ID and she's like she's going to report me to the office," Barnwell told reporters on Thursday (March 9). "And I'm just confused I'm like, 'Get your hands off me, get your hands off me.' You can hear me say that in the video (of the confrontation). I was just in disbelief. I had never expected something like that to happened to me while being at school."
Barnwell's parents, Fynale and Shavell Barnwell, said they requested the principal discipline Livingston to no avail. The teacher was still listed on a faculty roster as of Friday (March 10).
"They saw the video, they saw this lady attack my child and still there has not been anything, that we are aware of, that has been done to this teacher," mother Fynale Barnwell said.
Barnell regularly has chosen not to recite the pledge, lawyer Tyler Bailey said.
"She's conscious of the injustices going on in the country," Bailey told NBC News. "She's conscious of the words and she delivered her actions. And she wasn't being disruptive. She was just going to class."
The Lexington School District One, Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, the South Carolina Department of Education, Principal Jacob Smith, and Livingston are all named as defendants in the federal lawsuit.
"Because this is an ongoing legal matter, the only information I can provide at this time is that the attorney representing the district is working on a response to the lawsuit," said Elizabeth “Libby” D. Roof, the district's chief communications officer. "The response will be filed in the coming weeks."
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