An 11-year-old boy was arrested at his Lakeland middle school for allegedly being disruptive after he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance because the U.S. flag and national anthem are "racist."
Bay News 9
reports that the confrontation began on Feb. 4 when a substitute teacher named Ana Alvarez asked a class at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy
to stand for the pledge.
The sixth-grade student refused to stand, telling the substitute that "the flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to black people." It's a pretty logical conclusion to make when you consider that Francis Scott Key
owned enslaved black people when he wrote that America was "the land of the free" for the "The Star-Spangled Banner."
His mother, Dhakira Talbot, told WTSP 10
that her son normally doesn't stand for the pledge, and the school reportedly doesn't require
students to participate. Forcing public school children to salute the flag or say the pledge has been unconstitutional since 1943, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette
that it's a clear violation of free speech rights.
The substitute teacher then said she told the boy, "Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live," to which he responded, "They brought me here," according to Bay News 9.
"Well you can always go back," Alvarez reportedly told the student. "I came here from Cuba, and the day I feel I'm not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live."
Talbot says the substitute teacher also told her son to go back to his homeland in Africa, according to WTSP 10
The substitute then said she called the office because she refused to deal with the student. The child cried and didn't want to leave with a school resource officer and dean, so he was arrested, taken to juvenile detention, and charged with two misdemeanors for allegedly disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence, Bay News 9 reports.
A Polk County Public Schools spokesperson told The Ledger
that the student was arrested for being "disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions," not because he refused to recite the pledge. The school also suspended him for three days.
School officials also accused the 11-year-old of screaming he would "beat the teacher" and get school leaders fired, though the boy told Bay News 9
that he didn't threaten Alvarez.
reports Alvarez will "no longer serve as a substitute" in the school district, and that PCPS plans to review how substitute teachers are trained with the outside agency that provides them, Kelly Services
"I'm upset," Talbot told Bay News 9
. "I'm angry. I'm hurt … If any disciplinary action should've been taken, it should've been with the school. He shouldn’t have been arrested."
The ACLU of Florida called the boy's arrest "outrageous."
"Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates," the organization wrote on Twitter
. "This is a prime example of the over-policing of black students in school."
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