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Lawsuit filed over McAllen ISD student’s refusal to recite Mexican pledge, sing anthem

As Texas’ education system is making national headlines with its controversial CSCOPE curriculum and instances of high school girls donning burqas, a federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Brenda Brinsdon, a McAllen high school student who gained national prominence in 2011 upon refusing to stand with arms extended straight out, palms down to recite the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance and sing the Mexican National Anthem.

The lawsuit claiming school officials violated Brinsdon’s constitutional rights was filed by the Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Texas attorney Jerad Najvar on behalf of Brinsdon and her father William Brinsdon.

In early 2011 while Brinsdon was a sophomore at Achieve Early College High School (AECHS) in McAllen, the school’s Freedom Week celebration, an occasion marking the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks and U.S. Constitution Day, included an assignment to recite the Mexican pledge. Upon being called on to perform the assignment, she refused.


Brenda, born in the United States, is the daughter of a Mexican immigrant and an American father.  Brenda is fluent in Spanish and English and is proud of her Mexican heritage, but she is a true blooded American. So to Brenda, the words of the pledge have a deep meaning. Her conscience and patriotism would not allow her to participate in the assignment.  She believed it was ‘un-American’ and she was exercising her constitutional right not to be forced to pledge allegiance to Mexico.  The school punished her for her refusal.

The Law Center notes the 1943 Supreme Court decision, West Virginia State Bd. of Educ. v. Barnette, and the McAllen ISD’s policy both of which prohibit a school from compelling students to recite the American Pledge of Allegiance. The district ignored the ruling and its own rule with Brinsdon’s refusal on the Mexican pledge.

It additionally references a Special Programs district policy requiring Freedom Week social studies classes to recite the Declaration of Independence though allows excusals based on conscientious objection grounds.

Brinsdon’s refusal was “not well received by her teacher, Reyna Santos, or the school principal, Yvette Cavasos” according to the Law Center. In response to administration coercion attempts terming the pledge as “just an assignment,” TMLC contends Brinsdon attempted to discuss her refusal to pledge allegiance to a country other than the United States with both Santos and Cavasos and in not backing down, she was “punished.”

In further detailing Brinsdon’s treatment, TMLC reports:

Santos gave Brenda an alternate assignment; write an essay on the Independence of Mexico.  While performing above average on all previous assignments in the class, Brenda completed this assignment on time but was given a failing grade. She was also required to sit in class over the next several days and listen to student after student reciting the Mexican pledge.

Following the incident, Brenda was involuntarily removed from her Spanish class.  She spent the class hour in the school’s office, even though she requested to return to the classroom.  Brenda was also given a failing grade on her report card, which was later corrected.

Claiming the school district and officials deprived Brinsdon of “her right to freedom of speech and equal protection of the law by discriminating against and unjustly punishing her because of her viewpoint,” the lawsuit names the McAllen ISD, the AECHS principal and Spanish teacher Reyna Santos as defendants.

The case has received national attention as well as coverage in Texas. The above video features Brinsdon’s cell phone video of students performing the assignment.

“Too many Americans—including those of Mexican descent—have suffered and died protecting our nation. It’s astonishing that this Texas school would deny Brenda her right of conscience and free speech not to pledge allegiance to a foreign country,” Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the TMLC, commented. “There is a sad trend in public schools across our nation to undermine American patriotism. But it’s encouraging to see students like Brenda stand up for America despite pressure from school officials.”

Lou Ann Anderson

Lou Ann Anderson is an information activist. As a contributor at Raging Elephants Radio and Examiner Austin, she writes and speaks on a variety of public policy topics. Lou Ann is the creator and online producer at Estate of Denial®, a website that addresses probate abuse via wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney as well as other taxpayer advocacy issues.

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