Enidris Siurano Rodriguez is not afraid to stand up, or in this case sit, for her rights. The 15-year-old Maryland honor student and gifted violinist has not stood for the pledge of allegiance since the 7th grade because of what she believes is an unjust political situation in her native Puerto Rico. Her bravery has caught the attention of Ricky Martin and Calle 13's Residente, who've both Tweeted their support for the outspoken student.
“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, who moved to the mainland when she was three, told NBC Latino. "The bottom line is the situation in Puerto Rico is undemocratic. I want it to change. I want Puerto Rico to have independence.”
But school officials aren't buying it. Teachers have confronted Rodriguez several times and sent her to the principal's office. Authorities told the teenager that while she didn’t have to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, she had to stand up every morning during that time. The Maryland High School student says they used “harassment and intimidation” to make her betray her beliefs.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland is now accusing the Montgomery County Maryland Public School of violating Rodriguez’s rights.
"The problem here is not their policy, it’s the implementation,” ACLU of Maryland staff attorney David Rocah told NBC Latino. “This should not be rocket science.” Rocah says the country should, “inspire it, not compel it — this is not a totalitarian country.”
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.”
Rodriguez, who has taken violin lessons since fourth grade and has a 3.8 GPA, says she has never disrupted class to make her statement, but has only sat quietly. Her father, who works for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says the family is not trying to challenge teachers and authorities, but they want to create an environment where ideas are exchanged.
“I want people to understand they have a voice,” Rodriguez said. “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].”