While showing off her JROTC uniform, 16-year-old Heather Lawrence told us joining the Army is her next big goal, to follow in the footsteps of her father and grandfather.
"Our flag represents everything that our country is," she said.
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The teen says an issue over the American flag is why she was written up and handed a five-day suspension from Springstead High School this week for criticizing a Muslim student. Heather says the other girl was sitting down during the Pledge of Allegiance.
"You know, I made a not-so-kind remark, and I do sincerely apologize for referring to the thing on her head because that had nothing to do with it." Heather told us, "But I told her, ‘Why don’t she act like she’s proud to be an American?’"
Despite the open apology to the girl, who wears a hijab, the President of the Tampa/Hillsborough County Human Rights Council says Heather’s actions were harmful and the school was right for taking action.
"But whether standing up or not, this issue’s not about the pledge of allegiance or anything else." Council President Ahmed Bedier said. "This is about bullying and it’s about discrimination."
Bedier says the Muslim student’s family contacted him and claims she did stand up for the pledge.
Meanwhile, Hernando school board member Pat Fagan said he doesn’t want to comment about the school’s decision to suspend Heather, but told us people, in general, should think before they speak.
The Muslim student walked away from Heather’s confrontation. A school staff member then reported the incident.
Heather’s dad, Mark, told us his family is not racist nor prejudiced and hopes school officials will reduce his daughter’s punishment.
"Respect one’s rights is the most important thing today for us as Americans to be appreciative of our nation," Fagan said.