When Brenda Brinsdon was a high-school sophomore in a small town called McAllen near the southern tip of Texas, her Spanish teacher required her and her class to memorize and recite the Mexican pledge of allegiance during a week meant to make the students aware of the culture and heritage of Mexico. Brenda didn’t want to recite the Mexican pledge, arguing that the school was forcing her to proclaim beliefs that she did not hold.
When it came time for the students to recite the pledge, Brenda took her dad’s ‘spy pen’ to school and secretly took a video of the students reciting the Mexican pledge of allegiance.
The video and subsequent news interviews with Brenda generated quite a bit of media attention, and the school became inundated with calls, letters, and emails–many of which were derogatory toward Hispanics and some of which were threatening.
When Brenda filed her lawsuit, she argued that a Supreme Court case from 1943 (Barnette), in which the Court declared that a school could not force students to recite the U.S. pledge of allegiance to start school every day, meant that her Spanish teacher was violating her free-speech rights. The Fifth Circuit disagreed with Brenda and ruled for the school. The Court pointed out that the 1943 case involved using the pledge every day as a “tool to compel patriotism,” whereas Brenda’s teacher was using the Mexican pledge as a cultural and educational exercise with no intent to “foster Mexican nationalism.”
Case: Brinsdon v. McAllen Ind. Sch. District, No. 15-40160 (5th Cir. June 30, 2017) (opinion here)