What happened to Marissa Barnwell? Family sues school district over assault allegations involving Pledge of Allegiance controversy

15-year-old Marissa Barnwell was allegedly physically assaulted by a school teacher, (Image via Rev. Dr. Yvette Wilson-Barnes, J.D. (she/her)/Twitter)
15-year-old Marissa Barnwell was allegedly physically assaulted by a school teacher. (Image via @ywilsond/Twitter)

15-year-old Marissa Barnwell accused a teacher of allegedly assaulting her after she denied reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Barnwell’s family then sued the South Carolina school district and the teacher responsible with regard to the incident.

The defendants’ list includes the school’s principal, the South Carolina Department of Education, and the superintendent as well. According to Marissa Barnwell’s mother, she received a call from her crying daughter after the incident.

Marissa Barnwell, a River Bluff High School student, claimed that the teacher allegedly pushed her to the wall and “forcefully touched” her to make her recite the pledge. The incident took place in the school hallway and was captured by a surveillance camera. Marissa further mentioned that the school principal asked her to go to her class and that he would review the footage.

Marissa Barnwell was allegedly assaulted by a special education teacher

A tragic incident took place when 15-year-old Marissa Barnwell was allegedly physically assaulted by a school teacher. The teacher reportedly pushed her to the wall and then touched her forcefully when she refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.

The South Carolina law stated that the Pledge of Allegiance must be read out every day at schools. However, it further mentioned that one cannot be punished for not reciting it.

According to the law:

“A person who does not wish to participate may leave the classroom, may remain in his seat, or may express his non-participation in any form which does not materially infringe upon the rights of other persons or disrupt school activities.”


Marissa's family held a press conference on Thursday to confirm the incident.

The 15-year-old said:

“The fact that this [person] attacked me and disrespected me completely just because of that. No one should ever go through that. No one should have to be in school every day and have to face this [person] and have to face the same administration that let this happen.”

Marissa Barnwell mentioned that she was shocked and “in disbelief” when the incident took place. She reportedly also asked the teacher to “get her hands off” her. Authorities identified the teacher as Nicole Livingstone.

Barnwell continued:

“I was completely and utterly disrespected. No one has apologized, no one has acknowledged my hurt… The fact that the school is defending that kind of behavior is unimaginable.”

Police haven’t made any arrests in the case

The family’s attorney, Tyler Bailey told The New York Times:

“The thing that’s beautiful about America is that we have freedoms. Students in our schools should feel safe, they should not feel threatened for exercising their constitutional rights.”

In connection to the tragic incident, Marissa Barnwell’s family has sued the school district, including the teacher, who was allegedly a special education teacher. Marissa’s mum Fynale Barnwell said:

“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 a change.”

Marissa's dad, Shavell, mentioned:

“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.”

Police are yet to charge or arrest the accused teacher and more details about the case are awaited.

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Edited by Adelle Fernandes
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