Shocking footage has revealed the moment a South Carolina student was ‘slammed against a wall’ and screamed at by her teacher for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
The parents of Marissa Barnwell, 15, have launched a lawsuit following the episode, which erupted on the ninth-grader’s birthday last November.
The incident occurred at River Bluff High School in Lexington, where honor roll student Barnwell claims she was accosted while quietly walking to class.
She says her teacher, named Nicole Livingstone, became enraged after seeing the 15-year-old had not stood still as the pledge rang out across the campus’ intercom system.
‘I was just in disbelief,’ said Barnwell at a news conference on Thursday, recalling that she told the teacher ‘Get your hands off of me.’
Marissa Barnwell, 15, claims she was physically accosted on her birthday when a teacher took offense to her not reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
Shocking footage has revealed the moment the teacher Nicole Livingstone approached the student in the hallway
Surveillance video of the child being accosted shows her walking by the teacher as she headed for class. Barnwell says she initially believed Livingston was talking to someone else.
While other students and faculty continue to walk around, Livingston begins following Barnwell down the hall, before ‘snatching at her, pushing her to the wall, and berating her’ for not standing to attention for the Pledge of Allegiance.
‘She pushes me into a wall then she snatches my ID and says she’s going to report me to the office,’ Barnwell explained.
‘I’m just confused and like “get your hands off of me, get your hands off of me”, you can hear me say that in the video. I was just in disbelief, I had never expected something like that to happen to me.’
Marissa’s parents have now launched a lawsuit, claiming the special education teacher violated her ‘constitutional rights’, according to the federal complaint.
They are demanding a trial by jury and an unspecified amount in damages, filing the lawsuit against the River Bluff High School teacher, principal, Lexington School District 1, as well as the South Carolina Education Department.
They allege the teacher violated the student’s First Amendment and civil rights because she ‘elected to continue walking to her class and refrain from’ reciting the pledge.
‘I was completely and utterly disrespected,’ Barnwell said.
‘I had never seen this lady a day in my life, so when she approached me so angry and so upset, I hadn’t known how to react.
‘She approached me then grabbed me, and pushed me up against the wall. I was just not prepared for that, and no student should ever have to go through such dramatic things.’
Special education teacher Nicole Livingston, pictured, is facing a lawsuit after she allegedly pushed the child against a wall and berated her
She was sent to the principal’s office following the incident, an ordeal she said was humiliating as she didn’t understand why she was in trouble.
Barnwell also claims that after complaining to her principal about the incident, he told her: ‘Well, shouldn’t you be proud of your country?’
‘No one has apologized, no one has acknowledged my hurt,’ she continued. ‘The fact that the school is defending that kind of behavior is unimaginable.’
Lexington School District One could not be reached for comment when contacted by DailyMail.com.
However, Livingstone remains on the school district’s list of faculty members on its website, suggesting she has not been fired following the November incident.
The student’s school recites the Pledge of Allegiance at the same time every day, due to a law passed over 30 years ago by the South Carolina legislature requiring them to do so.
But her silent protest is also protected under the same law, which prohibits punishment for students who refuse to recite the pledge as long as they are not disruptive.
‘What happened to me shouldn’t ever happen to any other student in America or in South Carolina, period,’ she added.
‘I was completely and utterly disrespected, and my constitutional right to protest and to not say the pledge of allegiance was disrespected.
‘That is my First Amendment right.’
According to a lawsuit filed last month, the school policy states that students do not have to stand still for the Pledge of Allegiance.
But Marissa’s parents said when they tried to raise the issue with the school’s principal, an assistant principal shockingly asked: ‘Are you sure you didn’t curse at her to provoke her to do this? Or, are you sure you didn’t say anything or hit her first?’
The Barnwell’s subsequently tried to raise their concerns at a school board meeting, but when they didn’t get any answers, they hired an attorney.
‘There is no reason why the kids that are African American, or black kids, should feel like they’re not treated the same and equal. It’s 2023, and it’s time for change,’ said Fynale Barnwell, Marissa’s mother.
Her father, Shavell Barnwell, added: ‘I just can’t believe this has happened.
‘Why would a teacher, you can see it in the video, why would the teacher single out my daughter when you could clearly see that other students are walking in this video.’
The family’s attorney Tyler Bailey, right, argued that all students should be able to exercise their constitutional right to refuse the Pledge of Allegiance
The incident occurred on November 29 at River Bluff High School in Lexington
The family’s attorney Tyler Bailey added during the statement that the case cuts to the core of civil rights in the United States.
‘The thing that’s beautiful about America is we have freedoms,’ he said.
‘Students in our schools should feel safe, they should not feel threatened for exercising their constitutional rights.
‘Nobody has sent anything in writing to the Barnwell’s, saying we apologize about what happened, or your daughter has constitutional rights that can be exercised, and they should not be violated.’
Livingston was not arrested or charged with any offenses by the Town of Lexington Police Department, according to WLTX.
The Lexington County Sheriff’s Office and the Lexington Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment when contacted by DailyMail.com.