An 11-year-old student was arrested after refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and allegedly telling a teacher that “the flag is racist and the national anthem is offensive to black people,” according to reports.
The boy, a student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Fla., was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence for the Feb. 4 outburst, according to Bay News 9.
He was also issued a three-day suspension.
His mother, Dhakira Talbot, said officials took things too far by arresting her son, who she said is in gifted classes and has been bullied in the past.
“My son has never been through anything like this. I feel like this should’ve been handled differently,” she said. “If any disciplinary action should’ve been taken, it should’ve been with the school. He shouldn’t have been arrested.”
The classroom kerfuffle happened when a substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez, ordered the boy to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
When he told her he believed the flag was racist and the anthem was offensive, Alvarez asked him “why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live,” the teacher said in a statement to the school district.
The teacher said he replied, “they brought me here.”
Alvarez then told him, “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.”
She said she resorted to calling the main office “because I did not want to continue dealing with him.”
The student also allegedly called school leaders racist, threatened to get the school resource officer and principal fired and beat up Alvarez, according to an arrest affidavit.
He denied threatening to beat the teacher in an interview with Bay News 9 with his mother.
Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy insisted that the boy was not arrested for failing to stand for the pledge.
“Students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” he told The Ledger.
The sixth-grader was collared “after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement,” he added.
Kennedy said he couldn’t discuss the boy’s discipline. Alvarez will no longer work as a substitute teacher in Polk County, he said.
“Our HR department will contact Kelly Services, which provides our substitutes, to further refine how our substitutes are trained,” Kennedy said.