11-year-old boy arrested after refusing to stand for Pledge of Allegiance
An 11-year-old boy, who apparently refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance as an anti-racism protest, has been arrested by police.
The young student, a sixth grader attending Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida has not yet been named. He was apparently arrested after getting into an altercation with his substitute teacher, stating that the US flag was racist and that the national anthem was offensive to black people.
According to a school district statement, the incident in question occurred on February 4, when the boy's teacher asked him: "Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live." When the child replied: "They brought [me] here," teacher Ana 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.”
Alvarez then called the school's office "because [she] did not want to continue dealing with him." The boy became extremely agitated, and the school’s dean of students attempted (without success) to calm the boy down. He asked him to leave the class 20 times before contacting the police, and the boy made a number of threats against the dean and Alvarez. He was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence as a result and was issued a three-day suspension.
However, the boy's mother, Dhakira Talbot, has been left outraged by his treatment at the hands of the school authorities and law enforcement. Talbot told reporters:
"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. 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."
In the wake of the controversy provoked by the boy's arrest, the Lakeland Police Department has defended their arrest by stating: "This arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom."
Meanwhile, Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy stated: "Students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance," but added that Alvarez will no longer work as a substitute, stating: "Our HR department will contact Kelly Services, which provides our substitutes, to further refine how our substitutes are trained."
In 1943 in the case of the West Virginia state board of education vs Barnette, the Supreme Court ruled that that American students cannot be compelled to recite the Pledge by educators or be punished for not doing so.