The Slatest

11-Year-Old Arrested After Refusing to Stand for Pledge of Allegiance

Newly sworn-in U.S. citizens recite the Pledge of Allegiance during a 2017 naturalization ceremony at Mount Vernon, Virginia.
Saul Loeb/Getty Images

A student at the Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida was arrested after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. The incident began after a substitute teacher asked the 11-year-old to stand and he refused, explaining that he thought the U.S. flag was racist. The teacher then apparently got into a contentious argument with the boy and asked “Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live,” according to a statement the teacher gave to the district. “They brought me here,” the boy replied.

The teacher apparently then thought that the best course of action was to continue arguing with the 11-year-old. “Well you can always go back,” she said she replied, “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 teacher decided to escalate the issue “because I did not want to continue dealing with him.” The boy was then arrested after he “refused to follow multiple commands, repeatedly called school leaders racist and was disruptive,” according to Bay News 9. The student denied accusations that he threatened to beat the teacher. He was ultimately charged with disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence, reports the Washington Post.

Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy insisted the 11-year-old “was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement.” Students “are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kennedy said. According to a handbook from the district, students can opt out of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance “upon written authorization from parent.” The substitute teacher will reportedly not be allowed to work at any of the district’s schools following this incident. “She was wrong. She was way out of place,” the student’s mother, Dhakira 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.”

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