Cierra Fields, 17, is an over-achiever. She’s been active in numerous extracurricular activities and social causes. Her latest one, she said, landed her in hot water at Fort Gibson High School.
On the first day of the third trimester last week, Fields said she sat out the pledge of allegiance.
“She is a patriot,” Fields’ father, US military veteran and Native American Rick Fields, said. “She wanted to sit out the pledge to protest how the government treats natives. She asked me if that was okay and I said that’s the right I served for.”
Fields’ teacher, Missy Parisotto, according to principal Gary Sparks, believed that Fields simply hadn’t heard that the pledge was going on, so she mentioned it to her.
“The girl raised her voice,” Sparks said. “So Mrs. Parisotto said maybe they should step out in the hall to discuss it.”
The pair went into a side room outside the classroom, and that’s where the stories diverge. According to Fields, Parisotto told her that sitting out the pledge was disrespectful to Parisotto’s veteran husband and all the veterans who have served. When Fields said her father was also a veteran, she said Parisotto called her “unpatriotic” and “ungodly.”
Parisotto denies she called the girl “ungodly,” as does Sparks.
“I can’t find any evidence that she said that,” Sparks said. “Obviously we can’t say things like that here, but I really can’t find any evidence that she did.”
Fields’ father, Rick, however, says it’s not in his daughter’s makeup to lie.
“You have to know her to completely understand,” he said. “But Cierra isn’t one to make up stories like that. I know every parent probably says that about their kids, but she is committed to integrity in everything. When I say I believe her, that’s because she’s earned it.”
A melanoma survivor, Cierra is a champion for cancer prevention, along with advocating against sexual assault on native girls at the White House. She was also instrumental in creating the Cherokee Nation Leadership Day.
According to Cierra, Parisotto was the one raising her voice; according to Parisotto, it was Cierra who raised hers.
Sparks says a student inside the classroom “heard everything” and said Parisotto did not call Cierra “ungodly.”
“We wouldn’t tolerate that,” he said. Cierra—and every other student—is free to sit out the Pledge of Allegiance in protest, he said.
Cierra’s protest shows her patriotism, Fields said. “The Supreme Court has ruled that is her First Amendment right, to protest. She is very patriotic, and very aware of the sacrifices made by those who serve. Protesting the government is something she sees as honoring their service.”