On February 4th. 2019, a 6th grade student was arrested and taken to juvenile detention after refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. The 11-year-old is a student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida.
According to reports, the student was confronted by a substitute teacher about not standing during the Pledge of Allegiance. He explained to the teacher he viewed the flag of the country to be racist and that it and the national anthem were offensive to black people. This created an exchange of words with the substitute who was required to make a written statement after the incident.
“Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live” she said. The student responded, “they brought me here.” She replied by saying, “Well you can always go back, because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live.”
The student’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, is extremely upset about the entire ordeal. She stated her son is in gifted and talented classes at the school and has personally dealt with being bullied in the past. “I’m upset, I’m angry. I’m hurt,” she said. “More so for my son. My son has never been through anything like this. I feel like this should’ve been handled differently. If any disciplinary action should’ve been taken, it should’ve been with the school. He shouldn’t have been arrested.”
Ms.Talbot believes the substitute teacher was completely out of line. “She was wrong. She was way out-of-place,” Talbot said. “If she felt like there was an issue with my son not standing for the flag, she should’ve resolved that in a way different manner than she did.”
According to the arrest reports, the student was arrested by the school resource officer because he refused to leave the classroom, repeatedly called school leaders racist and was disruptive. They claim he threatened to get the school resource officer and principal fired and continuously made threats as he was escorted to the office.
He was arrested for disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence and transported to the Juvenile Assessment Center, police said. The student was also on school suspension for three days.
“I want the charges dropped and I want the school to be held accountable for what happened because it shouldn’t have been handled the way it was handled,” Talbot said.
A spokeswoman with the school district said students aren’t required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, but the substitute teacher wasn’t aware of this. The spokeswoman also stated the substitute teacher will no longer be able to work at any of the district’s schools and the district is still looking into the matter.
“We do not condone the substitute’s behavior,” the district said in a statement Monday. “We respect our students’ right to freedom of expression and we are committed to protecting that critical right while ensuring peaceful classrooms so all students can learn.”