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(Editor’s note: This article has been updated with an emailed statement from Lawton Senior High School’s 12th grade principal Charles Kirchen.)

LaAveion Woods woke up on Thursday, September 2nd, ready to celebrate her 15th birthday. Those celebrations turned sour, however, when she and her old sister were later detained by law enforcement at their own school.
In an interview with The Black Wall Street Times, members of the Woods family, whose two daughters attend Lawton High School in Lawton, Oklahoma, detailed the moment a teacher began to argue with students who refused to stand during the reciting of the national anthem.

Samantha Woods has two daughters who attend Lawton High School–15-year-old LaAvian Woods in the 9th grade and senior Amariona Woods. Ms. Woods, who works from home, said she found out her daughter was being detained via a FaceTime call with her niece, who called Ms. Woods as her daughters were being handcuffed by a law enforcement officer.

Family says school detained, suspended daughters for refusing to stand for anthem

“They were at a pep rally. And everybody was standing up to do the national anthem. And they chose not to stand,” Ms. Woods told The Black Wall St. Times via zoom.

She said a teacher named Ms. Reese approached them demanding they stand.
With a population barely over 90,000, Lawton is relatively more diverse than other cities in Oklahoma of similar size. About 57 percent of Lawtonians identify as White alone, 20 percent identify as Black or African American, and 10 percent identify as belonging to two or more racial groups, according to U.S. Census Data.


Forced patriotism is “unconstitutional”

According to Lawton Senior High School’s website, a staff member named Kevan Reese is listed as a social studies teacher. Ms. Woods and her daughters allege this teacher attempted to force them to stand for the national anthem.
Yet a 1943 United States Supreme Court case had already made it clear that forcing students to show patriotism was unconstitutional.

In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, students belonging to the Jehovah’s Witness faith claimed saluting the flag was against their religion. The Supreme Court agreed, saying forcing students to comply was a violation of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in matters of politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion[,] or force citizens to confess by word their faith therein,” said Justice Robert H. Jackson at the time, affirming the rights of students.

Students charged with disturbing the peace

When the Woods sisters continued to refuse social studies teacher Kevan Reeves’ demands to stand for the anthem, Ms. Woods said the teacher wouldn’t take no for an answer, causing her daughters to become agitated.
“That’s when they got loud, and the teacher went off and told, I guess a police officer, that one of my daughters threatened her. So, that’s when they were detained, handcuffed. My niece called me on FaceTime. I seen my oldest daughter in handcuffs.”

Ms. Woods said she then immediately tried calling the school to understand the situation while the daughters’ father, Larry Woods, went up to the school to confront administration.
Ultimately, Ms. Woods said her daughters LaAveion and Amariona Woods were charged with disturbing the peace and suspended from school grounds for a week.

The Black Wall Street Times reached out to Lawton High’s main office. When asked for comment about the Woods family’s account of what happened, an office worker responded saying “some of that is true and some of it’s not.” The worker added that she would relay the message to Lawton High’s 12th grade principal Charles Kirchen for a return phone call.

On Wednesday, September 8, Principal Kirchen responded to our request for comment in an emailed statement saying,  “I can assure you that no student was removed, ejected, or arrested for failing to stand for the National Anthem at Lawton High School. Unfortunately, I am unable to comment on anything that relates to students due to privacy laws.”

Students say race played a factor

For their part, the two students say they weren’t the only ones who refused to stand.
“There was a student next to me sitting down, too,” senior Amariona Woods said. The sisters, who identify as Black, Puerto Rican and Indian, said there were several other students around them who also remained seated, with one main difference.
“They were White,” LaAveion said.

The Woods family identified Ms. Reese as the teacher who approached their group at the pep rally, demanding everyone stand for the national anthem. While the sisters say they’ve had teachers who never bothered them when they refused to stand in the past, Ms. Reese was a different story.
“At first we were just ignoring her,” LaAveion said. But once Ms. Reese demanded she come with her, LaAveion’s older sister Amariona followed.

“And then we were in the hallway, we were sitting on the bench. And the officer, she was handcuffing me. I was asking her what I was being handcuffed for. And she couldn’t even tell me,” 15-year-old LaAveion added.
For coming to her younger sister’s aid, Amariona said she, too was handcuffed.


Family accuses school of kicking out students without notifying parents

Moreover, the sisters say their half sister and cousin, two others who were standing by, were also suspended and physically escorted out of the school before parents were notified.
Ms. Woods said she was on the phone when she overheard a man tell her niece to get out of the school.

“How are you going to tell them to get out the school? Where are they supposed to go? This is a 14-year-old little girl.”
Ms. Woods said her niece’s mom planned to meet with school officials on Tuesday about the incident.

According to the Woods sisters, the pep rally had just started, with an auditorium full of loud students. Nevertheless, the sisters were detained and charged with disturbing the peace, according to Ms. Woods.

“I feel like it was racist because there was all other kids of people sitting down, majority of White people sitting down. And they came up to us,” LaAveion told The Black Wall St. Times.

Students’ father confronts school administrators

“I just feel like it’s stupid. If we tell her no, we don’t wanna stand up. She should’ve just walked away,” Amariona said.

During the incident, when Ms. Woods witnessed her daughter being handcuffed on a FaceTime video, she said she noticed one of the school’s principals in the video and immediately asked her niece, who was using her daughter’s phone to record, to give the phone to the principal.

Ms. Woods said she asked the principal why her daughters were being detained. She said the principal told her he couldn’t give her any information at the time. Instead, he directed Ms. Woods’ daughters to “get out of the school,” according to Ms. Woods.

She said she’s still seeking answers from the school.


Students don’t want to return to Lawton High

The incident comes a year after Ms. Woods says her younger daughter, LaAveion was called the n-word when she was in 8th grade at Central Middle School. Ms. Woods said LaAveion was charged with assault and battery for her response to the racial slur while the student who made the comment wasn’t disciplined.

Demoralized by this most recent situation, the sisters said they don’t want to return to Lawton High.
“And they wonder why kids don’t want to participate in nothing. Look how they get treated,” Ms. Woods said.

Several organizers are planning a protest outside of Lawton High at 601 NW Fort Sill Blvd in Lawton on Friday, September 10 at 10 a.m., according to a Facebook event page.

Following our reporting on this story, Ms. Woods informed us that Lawton High extended the suspension of her daughters to 30 days.

“When I asked why, all he kept repeating was ‘from the incidents that occurred that day’,” Ms. Woods told the Black Wall St. Times via email.

We will update this story as we receive more information and statements from school administrators.

(Author’s note: Deon Osborne is a former Lawton High student.)

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

20 replies on “Parent says daughters handcuffed, suspended after refusing to stand for national anthem”

  1. Why publish a false story… this is fabricated in every way possible. Good job promoting hate and racism.

  2. This story is not false it happens every day. Besides who in the world do you know its false..

    1. I know one of the kids that was suspended and it was not over standing for the Anthem but being rude and disrespectful to the facility. I wish that they told the truth about this instead of promoting racism and hatred.

      1. Or did you read it on the Mom’s page from her posts? If you weren’t physically THERE, then speak on what you know not what you heard from people trying to save face for the school.

      2. Tonya, why don’t you not speak on stuff you are reading if you don’t know the facts. This family is well know in the Lawton are by the police department and they have all been in trouble so maybe you should get all the facts first before you accuse someone of listening to someone from the school trying to save face.

      3. Or maybe I’ve known this family ALL my life and went to Lawton High myself and know EXACTLY how it gets down. I also know this family has beating a few cases with LPD and since they couldn’t get who they were aiming for they have now proceeded to go after the kids….but you’re not ready for that conversation. I could go on and on about why this teacher overlooked the other children doing the exact same thing and went straight for these girls. I could speak VOLUMES on why a secretary is giving one sided information and why you have took it and ran for it. I also can speak for any and everyone’s first amendment rights and didn’t know that because they were, in your assumption, “mouthy” they don’t have that right. Just as they did when they told the hussy they didn’t want to stand for what they didn’t believe in. If this chick would have left it at that she probably would have had to LIE in order to get them arrested in the first place…..but again, I guess you’re not going by THAT conversation just the one you half ass heard.

      4. All I can say is I am laughing so hard at your comment because it is a joke. Just like this story is. However, you continue to make excuses for that family. That just shows your true colors as well. It is really sad to see what this world is coming too because people aren’t held accountable for their actions and are defend by those who are just as bad. What a joke, just like this bs story and the lies being told.

      5. If you’re changing your tune because I KNOW KNOW the family just say that…no need to laugh at your own stupidity! The fact of the matter is, you took instances that these kids have stood up for themselves and tried to paint a picture based on what the LPD has against the parents. There is no need to “justify” their behavior because they had EVERY RIGHT to defend whatever right they believed in. Just admit that you are biased against the family because your family member is kkk…I mean LPD and move on!

      6. Whomever Nope is let’s put it like this …nope! U don’t know my child…nope! U don’t know my family…nope! U don’t have a clue on what your speaking about…nope! No one cares!! For you to try and slander my family shows your character. I pray for people like you who don’t know any better. Thank Tonya for your support and also to the gentleman who was ACTUALLY there! I appreciate you so much!

    1. Tonya what a joke you are. I am so glad you think you know me. First of I am a First American which would prevent me or my family from being in the KKK. Secondly, those girls were raised around disrespect so of course they think they are allowed to be disrespectful. There are consequences for your actions. If you want to yell and be disrespectful to a teacher then you deserve to be suspended. Too bad the took away a school’s right to paddle maybe then a whole generation of kids wouldn’t be acting fools like they do including you. Maybe these parents should worry about being parents instead of partying and causing trouble in the community.

  3. I was there trying to watch my kids at the spirit assembly. I was sitting right behind the situation. The girls weren’t causing any commotion. The teacher was out of line for harassing them for not standing and she started a whole fire. The kids never should’ve been approached!!!

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