Florida

A Florida 6th-grader called the Pledge of Allegiance ‘racist.’ Then he got arrested.

A 6th grader refused to stand for or recite the Pledge of Allegiance at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, police say, and then was arrested for being “disruptive” and not leaving the classroom.
A 6th grader refused to stand for or recite the Pledge of Allegiance at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, police say, and then was arrested for being “disruptive” and not leaving the classroom. AP

Dhakira Talbot is shocked that her 6th grade son was arrested in school after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

“I’m upset, I’m angry. I’m hurt,” the Florida mother said, according to BayNews9. “More so for my son. My son has never been through anything like this.”

The incident happened on Feb. 4, according to The Washington Post, and reports began to surface over the weekend.

Police say the 11-year-old student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland said he wouldn’t stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because the flag is “racist,” according to WTSP.

Ana Alvarez, a substitute teacher in the classroom, said she was offended by this comment and asked the student, who is black, why he didn’t leave the country, as reported by The Washington Post.

The middle schooler’s mother said Alvarez “told my son to go back to his homeland,” WTSP reported.

“He was confused,” Talbot told WTSP. “He said, ‘What do you mean? Africa?’ She said, ‘Yeah.’”

The substitute teacher told the student “you can always go back” after he replied “they brought me here,” according to The Washington Post.

“I came here from Cuba,” Alvarez recalled telling the student, according to The Washington Post, “and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore, I would find another place to live.”

What happened next has left Talbot in tears, WTSP reported.

“My son was arrested in front of his classmates,” she told the TV station.

Police say the student was arrested after he “was asked over 20 times to leave the classroom by the Dean of Students,” and made threatening comments, according to WFLA.

The teacher said she “had to call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with (the student),” according to BayNews9.

He was charged with “disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence,” The Washington Post reported. He also was given a three-day suspension, according to WTSP.

“To be clear, students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kyle Kennedy, from Polk County Public Schools, told the Patch. “Unfortunately, a substitute teacher was not aware of this.”

“The student was NOT arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge,” Lakeland police spokesman Gary B. Gross said, according to WFLA.

School officials say Alvarez will no longer be a substitute teacher in Polk County schools, the Patch reported.

Talbot, who wants the charges against her son dropped, told BayNews9 that the substitute teacher was “was way out of place.”

“If she felt like there was an issue with my son not standing for the flag,” Talbot told the TV station, “she should’ve resolved that in a way different manner than she did.”

Real-Time reporter Josh Magness covers breaking national news and trending news to keep readers of McClatchy’s newspapers up to date with the latest high-profile stories. He previously interned at McClatchy’s bureau in Washington, D.C, while covering the U.S. Congress.
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