http://www.cherokeephoenix.orgCierra Fields
Cierra Fields

Fields alleges teacher criticism over Pledge of Allegiance

BY STACIE BOSTON
Reporter – @cp_sguthrie
03/08/2017 12:00 PM
FORT GIBSON, Okla. – Cherokee Nation citizen Cierra Fields said that on Feb. 28, during her first day of the trimester at Fort Gibson High School, a teacher criticized her for not standing up or partaking in the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I sit down for the Pledge of Allegiance, as I do not believe in it, do not say it,” she said. “After this my teacher was like, “You know Cierra, we stand during the pledge in this class.’”

An article on muskogeenow.com names the teacher as Missy Parisotto. According to the school’s facility page, a Melissa Parisotto is listed as a teacher.

Fields said the teacher had her step outside of the classroom, into a location that’s separated by a divider, and told her why it’s important that she stand for the pledge.

“She went on the very long rant about how her father missed the first year of her life because he served in Vietnam, and then her husband was active duty in Afghanistan when she had four little ones at home that she had to raise on her own because he was fighting for this country and everything, and that I’m disrespecting them and I’m disrespecting her,” Fields said. “I kind of butted in there and said, ‘you realize I come from a military family. My father served for 10 years,’ and she questioned that and she was like, ‘then you’re disrespecting your father.’ By me not standing I was disrespecting my father, and I was being unpatriotic and everything. I tried telling her my father is actually the one who told me it is my choice to stand or not to pledge.”

Rick Fields, Cierra’s father, said he’s taught his daughter about the U.S. Constitution and the importance of her right to chose.

“The biggest issue, the flag is but a symbol. What is really important is the Constitution of the United States and the values that are embedded within the Constitution. It’s more important to uphold the Constitution than to focus on something like the flag,” he said. “The Supreme Court has ruled you can burn a flag, you can trample the flag, you can do pretty much whatever you want to do to the flag under freedom of speech. It’s also ruled that the right to not stand and recite the pledge is freedom of speech and that is protected. I did not serve 10 years in the military to have forced patriotism for my child. My child can decide what she feels is right and wrong.”

Cierra said the teacher told her that she would not have Cierra “disrespecting” her family and that “there’s an online course” she could take. Cierra said she then asked to see Principal Gary Sparks.

Cierra said Sparks later informed the teacher that Cierra had the right to sit during the pledge.

Sparks said both Parisotto and Cierra have their own stories of the situation.

“Basically they both have a story on it, and we followed up with both of them. We have to come to a consensus on that. I will say that this teacher’s a very upstanding lady and have had zero problems with her in the past,” he said.

Superintendent Derald Glover said the school has had students not stand for the pledge before.

“The teachers have asked them privately, respectfully, you know one-on-one, and then called the parents to find out if it’s OK with them and the parents have said, ‘no, we would like them to stand.’ If the teacher’s not aware, then they’ll ask them,” Glover said. “We also respect the First Amendment rights. It’s OK to ask a student why, and it’s kind of a teaching moment to ask why, get the answer and if it’s a reasonable reason. Now if the student had no reason to stand, they were just going to be disrespectful, then I think that’s another issue.”

Cierra said all she and her parents want is an apology, which as of publication had not received.

“We gave them three days where we said, ‘we just want an apology. That’s it.’ They refused. They defended her and called her a nice lady. So we said, ‘fine.’ We filed a formal complaint with the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) about this. We just wanted an apology. If she just questioned why I sat it would have been fine. She started out with, ‘we stand in my classroom,’ which you can’t say, that it’s against the law, breaks the Constitution and is against the Supreme Court ruling (West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette).”

The U.S. Supreme Court in 1943 ruled that the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protected students from being forced to salute the American flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance in school.

Sparks said an “apology” would be between the student and teacher.

“That’s between the student and the teacher because they’re the one that actually had the exchange,” he said.

Cierra said while representing the CN at certain events she does stand, just not when it’s representing herself such as in class.

“At events where I represent Cherokee Nation or veteran events and stuff like that I do stand. I get it then. When it’s just me, myself and I at Fort Gibson or something like that I’m not going to stand because I’m just representing myself,” she said. “Up until this point, most of this year I had one teacher who just wanted to know why I don’t stand. I explained it and she left it at that. Had a few kids ask and that was that.”

The Cherokee Phoenix attempted to contact Parisotto for comment but did not receive a response as of publication.

News

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BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
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