Photo Credits: Reason.com
LAKELAND - An 11-year-old student from Lawton Chiles Middle Academy was arrested Feb 4, 2019 — charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence — following a confrontation with school officials and a law enforcement officer. This sixth-grader refused to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance. He allegedly told a substitute teacher that “the flag is racist and the national anthem is offensive to black people.”
The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag ("I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.") is customarily rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.
After the boy didn’t stand up for Pledge of Allegiance, the substitute teacher ordered him to stand. She reportedly asked the boy why he did not go to another place to live if he thinks it’s so bad here.
As The Ledger reports, Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy said the sixth-grader “was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement.” Kennedy said he wanted to make it clear that the student was not arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge. “Students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kennedy said.
District officials said the teacher's name is Ana Alvarez. Kennedy said she was not aware of district policy regarding the pledge as voluntary. Also, Alvarez will no longer serve as a substitute in Polk County Public Schools and that they will be reviewing their training policy with the outside agency that handles hiring substitute teachers. “Our HR department will contact Kelly Services, which provides our substitutes, to further refine how our substitutes are trained,” Kennedy said.
Dhakira Talbot, the boy's mother, told Bay News 9 that the teacher's actions were inappropriate and that her son should not have been suspended. In this instance, if the teacher hadn’t insisted the boy stand, would this confrontation have happened at all?
"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."