A 10-year-old girl in the fifth-grade refused to stand for the National Anthem, she said, because it’s racist. Here’s how that worked out for her.
Skyla Madria, a fifth-grader at Alexander Middle School in Pearland, Texas, refused to stand up when the national anthem played at her school. The 10-year-old said it is because it was written by a slave owner, and she is offended by a portion of “The Star-Spangled Banner” that she says references slavery. As such, she believes the song is racist and said she would not stand.
Taking a knee during the national anthem to protest alleged police brutality, black oppression, racism, and other perceived social injustices has spread through our society in recent years. The controversial decision that started in the NFL with many players kneeling during the national anthem has made its way to our children’s schools after professional athletes decided to turn some heads and received a tremendous amount of attention.
Madria decided to jump on that bandwagon at just 10 years old, taking a page out of the NFL’s playbook and protesting the national anthem itself. According to the fifth-grader, she took issue with “The Star-Spangled Banner” because it was written by Francis Scott Key, a slave owner. She also explained that she is protesting because one of the verses, which most people do not sing, refers to slavery.
“When I heard the third verse of the national anthem, I decided that’s not right and he shouldn’t have wrote that,” Madria explained, referring to a part of the anthem that’s typically no longer sung anymore. So, in a matter of two weeks, the 10-year-old girl kneeled in protest on three separate occasions, but according to the child, her peacefully protest didn’t go over well with her coach.
“He told me you should respect my flag, and respect my nation, and you should stand up for this pledge,” Madria said, describing the criticism she allegedly received from school officials, starting with her coach. “He yelled at me. He sent me to the principal. The principal called my mother and called me disgusting for not standing up.”
If the school was hoping the child’s mother would encourage Madria to stand, however, they were greatly mistaken. Elizabeth Owens, Madria’s mother, supported her daughter’s decision, according to KHOU. “I told her, ‘You’re not doing anything wrong. You’re standing for what you believe in.’ I support her 100 percent,” Owens said.
Following Pearland Independent School District’s alleged reaction, Owens reached out to community activist Quannel X. “Why would we ask any African American child or citizen to stand up and honor a flag with an anthem written by a slave owner who promised nothing but turmoil to blacks to the grave?” Quannel X asked rhetorically.
But, a spokesperson for Pearland ISD seemed somewhat confused by the claims made by Quannel X and Madria. The spokesperson clarified that the national anthem is not sung at school. Instead, students recite the Pledge of Allegiance and the Texas Pledge before a moment of silence. So, it seems Madria was actually kneeling during the Pledge of Allegiance, not “The Star-Spangled Banner” she claimed to be protesting.
What’s more, the school gives a very different description of how the alleged events unfolded. “When a Pearland ISD student recently knelt during the Pledge of Allegiance, the teacher requested that the child stand, and the child did so,” Pearland ISD said in a statement. “The teacher did not touch or discipline the student in any way, as alleged by Quanell X.”
According to the statement, Madria and Quannel X aren’t the only ones telling the media a much different story about the ordeal, either. Her mother is also singing a different tune as well, according to the school, which states, “The student’s parent initially told campus administrators that the child should stand as well.”
After learning about the complaint, Pearland ISD Superintendent Dr. John Kelly said students can be excused from the Pledge of Allegiance, as Texas law allows, with a parent’s consent. All Owens had to do is give written consent and Madria could sit during the pledge. Owens said she planned to turn in the required consent, allowing Madria to opt out of the Pledge of Allegiance, but the family still wanted an apology.
Should they be the ones actually issuing one, though? A lot of Skyla Madria’s story didn’t add up. The 10-year-old claimed to be protesting the national anthem but actually sat for the pledge. While it’s unknown whether she confused the two, it’s clear her inaccurate recollection of events caused much ado about nothing. A little communication cleared everything up, so perhaps that’s where people should start rather than running to activists and the local news.