McAllen, TX is a bit of an anomaly. In a red state, this town of 129,000 just across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico, typically votes Democrat. It is the 20th largest city in Texas, but has the 12th largest retail sales in the state, largely due to shoppers from Reynosa, with its population of close to a million. In the city’s school district, six of its seven commissioners have clearly Hispanic surnames, which may have created the cultural climate that led to this disturbing incident: In September 2011, Brenda Brindson, a 15-year old Texas high-school sophomore, was thrown out of her third-year Spanish class and given an F because she refused to stand and recite the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance as part of a class assignment. In case you were wondering what the Mexican Pledge of Allegiance says, here’s a translation:
legacy from our heroes
symbol of the unity of our parents
and our brothers
We promise you:
To be always loyal
to the principles of freedom and justice
that makes this an independent,
human and generous nation,
to which we dedicate our existence.
If you read closely, you might think that “dedicating our existence to a human and generous nation” sounds a bit like fawning over a welfare state, but that’s beside the point. The point is that Ms. Brindson’s mother is a legal immigrant from Mexico. Brindson is proud of her Mexican heritage, but she wants to remain monogamous in her allegiance to the United States, and was disciplined for that quaint belief.
The sad details: In the fall of 2011, Brindson entered McAllen’s Achieve Early College High School. As part of their Spanish 3 activity, Reyna Santos, the school’s Spanish teacher, required all her students to stand, extend their right arms straight out, palms down, and recite the Mexican Pledge. She also required them to sing the Mexican National Anthem. Ms. Brindson refused, which caused her teacher and principal to react in an unconscionable way.
In fact, their behavior was so out of line that Brindson’s family engaged the services of Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national pro-bono legal firm. According to TMLC, Brindson’s refusal was met with a strong negative response by Santos and the school’s principal, Yvette Cavasos. “Both tried to coerce her to recite the Mexican pledge, saying this was just an assignment,” according to an account by the law center. “Brenda attempted to discuss reasons for her refusal to pledge allegiance to a country other than the United States with both Santos and Cavasos. When Brenda did not back down, she was punished.
Attempting to be reasonable, Brindson offered to recite the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish as an alternative. Instead, Santos assigned Brindson to research and write a paper on Mexico’s independence. Many say the essay was above average. But Santos gave it an F, with a humiliating 13 out of 100 points.
Following the incident,” a TMLC spokesperson said, “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”. This grade was later raised as the school realized Brindson and her father were going to file a lawsuit. The lawsuit charges that the McAllen Independent School District violated Ms. Brindson’s constitutional guarantees.
Ironically, the McAllen school district has a policy that allows students to opt out of reciting both the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance and the Declaration of Independence if the student “as determined by the district, has a conscientious objection to the recitation.” Just to rub more salt in this story, the incident that started this mess occurred during the school’s celebration of Freedom Week, which observed the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, and also on U.S. Constitution Day.
TMLC president and chief counsel Richard Thompson said, “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.
Brenda Brindson said she was just taking a stand for what she believes. She added, “I really hope I was an inspiration to a lot of youth in America to stand up for what’s right.” I hope she’s an inspiration for a lot of older Americans, too. She certainly is for this one.