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South Carolina Student Says Teacher Assaulted Her For Not Saying Pledge of Allegiance

Pledge of Allegiance

Despite remaining quiet and non-disruptive, 15-year-old Marissa Barnwell, who is Black, said she was verbally accosted and pushed against the wall by special education teacher Nicole Livingston.

A South Carolina high school student is speaking out after a teacher allegedly assaulted her for not reciting the pledge of allegiance.

Marissa Barnwell, a 15-year-old honors student at River Bluff High School, was walking to class during the daily recitation of the pledge of allegiance over the school's intercom. While some students in the hallways stopped, Barnwell, who is Black, said she elected to keep walking, and that she was not the only student to did so.

Despite remaining quiet and non-disruptive, Barnwell said she was verbally accosted and pushed against the wall by special education teacher Nicole Livingston, who she had never met before.

"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 said via NBC. "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. I was just in disbelief. I had never expected something like that to happened to me while being at school."

She added: "I was completely and utterly disrespected. No one has apologized, no one has acknowledged my hurt. ... The fact that the school is defending that kind of behavior is unimaginable.”

South Carolina law requires that the pledge be recited every day at public schools, but also explicitly states that students have the right to not participate so long as they do not disrupt school activities.

Barnwell's parents, Fynale and Shavell Barnwell, said that they asked for disciplinary action against Livingston, but that nothing has since been done. As of Friday, Livingston was still listed under the school's faculty.

"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," Fynale Barnwell said.

The Barnwells have since filed a federal lawsuit against the Lexington School District One, Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait, the South Carolina Department of Education, principal Jacob Smith, and Livingston.

Family lawyer Tyler Bailey said that Barnwell has opted not to participate in the pledge on a regular basis, as is her constitutional right. Livingston not only assaulted Barnwell, but also deprived her of that right.

"[Marissa Barnwell] is conscious of the injustices going on in the country," Bailey said. "She's conscious of the words and she delivered her actions. And she wasn't being disruptive. She was just going to class. ... The thing that’s beautiful about America is we have freedoms. Students in our schools should feel safe, they should not be feel threatened for exercising their constitutional rights.”

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