Teen refuses to stand for pledge of allegiance because “situation in Puerto Rico is undemocratic”
Enidris Siurano Rodriguez,15, has not stood for the pledge of allegiance at school since she was in 7th grade to bring awareness to what she believes is an unjust political situation for Puerto Rico, her place of birth. But now the 10th grade honor student and gifted violinist finds herself at the center of controversy after teachers and administrators objected to her refusal to stand.
“I’m not happy with the way the United States government has gone about its relations with my country of Puerto Rico over the years,” Rodriguez told NBC Latino.
“The bottom line is the situation in Puerto Rico is undemocratic,” she says. “I want it to change. I want Puerto Rico to have independence.”
Rodriguez says she was forced to stand by school officials. “What they did was in violation of my constitutional rights. I know a lot about the United States constitution — not only is it violating Montgomery County policies but also violating the constitution. I wasn’t disturbing anyone.”
Montgomery County schools spokesman Dana Tofig says school policy is clearly in Rodriguez’ favor and the situation is being investigated.
“The policy is very clear, students do not have to participate in patriotic exercises,” Tofig says. “We’re very clear in our regulations that students and staff do not have to participate.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has become involved by writing a letter to the school district saying Rodriguez’ rights were violated.
“The problem here is not their policy, it’s the implementation,” says David Rocah, ACLU of Maryland staff attorney. “This should not be rocket science.” Regarding a pledge of allegiance, Rocah says the country should, “inspire it, not compel it — this is not a totalitarian country.”
Rodriguez’ father Osiris, who works for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says her the family is not trying to challenge teachers and authorities, but they want to create an environment where ideas are exchanged.
“She’s very passionate about her ideas and the things she believes in,” he says. “If she was doing something wrong, we would have sat her down and said, ‘You know Enidris, we believe you are doing something wrong’ and asked her to correct it.”
Rodriguez, who has taken violin lessons since fourth grade, is an excellent student — her GPA currently stands at 3.8.
She’s not sure what she wants to do when she grows up. “I’ve debated this,” she says. “For years I wanted to do something with law. I debated being a lawyer, I debated being a politician. I have my music and I don’t want to lose that — If I don’t use it, I’ll lose it.”
In the end, she says she wants students to feel confident speaking up.
“I want people to understand they have a voice,” she says. “Teachers are not in a position to take that away as long as you’re not doing something illegal. Students voices are heard the least and we can’t be afraid to use [them].”