Earlier this month, an 11-year-old student was arrested after an argument erupted over his refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The sixth-grader from Florida faces charges after being arrested for “causing a disruption and refusing repeated instructions from the school staff and law enforcement,” USA Today reported on the statement released by Polk County Public Schools.
A spokesperson for the county schools, Kyle Kennedy, said in the statement that “the student was NOT arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge,” making it clear that “students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.”
The disturbance began with an argument between the student and a substitute teacher when the boy refused to stand for the pledge, calling the flag “racist,” and saying the national anthem was offensive to African Americans, reported Bay News 9.
The statement reported that the teacher, identified as Ana Alvarez, asked the boy why he shouldn’t move somewhere else to live if it was “so bad here.” Alvarez said he replied, “They brought me here.”
Alvarez answered the student, “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.”
The teacher then called on the office to intervene. The School Resource Officer and Dean of Students tried to calm the student, asking him “over 20 times to leave the classroom” by the Dean, and then by the Officer, according to the statement. The student left and “created another disturbance and made threats” while he was taken to the office and arrested for failing “to comply.”
The student’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, told Bay News 9 she was upset and wants the charges dropped, saying the incident should never have been handled this way.
“I’m upset, I’m angry. I’m hurt,” Talbot said. “More so for my son. 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.”
Kennedy stated that Alvarez was not aware that students were not required to participate in the pledge and that she no longer works as a substitute in the district. He also said that the district will review training for substitute teachers.
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