FARMINGTON HILLS, MICH. - Ever since Stone Chaney was a second-grader at Beechview Elementary School in Farmington Hills, he's sat during the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance with no incident.
That changed last week at East Middle School on the third day of the school year, when the sixth-grader says he was yanked out of his chair by one teacher on Thursday and yelled at by another the next day when he didn't stand for the pledge.
Now one of the teachers has been placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of an investigation by Farmington Public Schools. Stone, 11, and his parents are drawing attention to the incident because they don't want to see it happen to other children.
"I'm doing this for me, my brothers, everyone across the state and everyone across the country," said Stone, whose parents pulled him out of school this week and are weighing their options. Stone, a sixth-grader, said he doesn't want to go back to East.
"I want to go to school, but not there. I don't feel safe going there," said Stone, who said his decision to sit during the pledge came well before football player Colin Kaepernick received national attention for kneeling during the national anthem.
The incidents began Thursday morning during Stone's homeroom class at East. When it was time to say the Pledge, Stone did what he normally does: He stayed seated.
"I was in my chair doing my homework ... All of a sudden I'm being snatched out of my chair. I told the lady that I don't stand for the pledge and she just kind of glared at me," said Stone, 11.
"I was confused when it happened because I didn't know what was going on. And then i was irritated because that's not supposed to happen," Stone said.
The next day, when another teacher was in his homeroom class, Stone was working on a work sheet when the pledge was being recited. In the middle of the pledge, he said, the teacher noticed him sitting.
"She starts yelling at me, telling me to get up. I just kept doing my work," he said. "She speed walks over to me, yells at me to get up. She wanted to know why. I told her that I don't pledge to a flag. I pledge to God and to my family."
George Heitsch, superintendent of Farmington Public Schools, where East is located, said in a statement that the district offers every student the opportunity to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance and expects "every child and adult in our district to be treated with dignity and respect."
"The district fully supports the right of each student to participate or not in the daily Pledge," Heitsch said.
"In this particular instance, school leaders began their investigation as soon as they were made aware of the situation, which was the day before the most recent board meeting," Heitsch said. "The teacher allegedly involved in the incident has been placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation."
The statement doesn't say which of the two teachers has been placed on leave.
Brian Chaney, Stone's father, said he and his son are being vocal about the incident because they don't want it to die down.
"We want people to know people have rights. You can't put your hands on children, or adults, for this reason," said Chaney, a social worker in the Pontiac School District.
"I have four sons. If I let them do that to my oldest, what’s going to happen to the second, third, fourth one. I have to make a stance for this," Chaney said. "I’m looking at my son as a hero. He believes in what he believes in. He's not worried about what other people think of him."
Chaney said he'd prefer to keep his son, who he said receives top grades, in the Farmington district, because "we've had a wonderful relationship."
"We don't want to paint the whole district with one whole brush," he said.
Chaney became emotional during a phone interview, crying as he talked about the leader he says his son has become.
"How many kids would be such critical thinkers and leaders to be able to walk to their own beat and blaze their own path. He didn't follow anybody."
Stone was asked what he would say to those who are critical of people who don't stand during the Pledge.
"They have their beliefs and I have mine," Stone said. "If they feel a separate way, that's OK. That's their opinion. I respect that."
He began sitting during the pledge when he was a second-grader after visiting his father at the school at which he worked. He noticed that his father doesn't stand for the pledge and asked why.
"He said it was his right not to stand. I chewed on it for a while, processed it. And then I realized what he was saying," Stone said.
And that's when he decided that he didn't want to stand either.
"Right now, what we're trying to do is see change, so this will never happen again," Stone said. "So all the teachers are taught to do the right thing."
"And held accountable," his father added.
"And held accountable," said Stone.
© 2017, Detroit Free Press