Pasco family sues district after 1st grader told to stand after kneeling during Pledge of Allegiance

Posted at 5:24 PM, May 08, 2018

PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — The family of a Pasco County 1st grader who was reprimanded after he chose to take a knee during the Pledge of Allegiance is suing the school district, principal and his teacher claiming that they violated his constitutional rights.


In September, Eugenia McDowell's son Kaden went down on one knee during the Pledge of Allegiance, he was then told by his teacher to stand up and stop it, in front of all his classmates. McDowell's complaint states that her son was subjected to "ridicule and humiliation" and that her son was "punished" for his refusal to stand. 

The incident took place days after countless NFL players took a knee during the national anthem, setting off a storm nationwide, sparking discussions in homes across America.

Following the incident, Kaden's teacher, Julie Darland, sent McDowell a text message about the incident, which McDowell shared with ABC Action News.

It read:

"I just wanted to let you know that this morning when it was time to do the Pledge of Allegiance, (your son) went down on one knee. I knew where he had seen it but I did tell him that in the classroom we are learning what it means to be a good citizen we're learning about respecting the United States of America and our country symbols and showing loyalty and patriotism and that we stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. I know its a sensitive issue but I wanted to make you aware. Thanks"

The lawsuit states that the next day, McDowell met with Wiregrass Elementary School Principal, Stephen Williams to discuss the incident, and requested a meeting with Kaden's teacher. However, the teacher refused McDowell's request, and shortly after, Kaden was transferred to a different class.

The lawsuit claims that the incident violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect freedom of speech and equal protection of the laws. The suit also cites Florida Statute, which requires schools to inform students of their right not to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

The lawsuit is asking for damages in excess of $15,000 and less than $75,000.