Florida middle school student arrested after conflict over refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance

LAKELAND, FLa. — An 11-year-old boy was arrested in school after a conflict over the Pledge of Allegiance.

The boy was at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Fla, on Feb. 4, when a substitute teacher directed him to stand for the pledge.

Bay News 9 reports the boy refused, saying that the flag was racist.

Police say the boy was disruptive and issued threats when he want to the office and was later arrested on charges of disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence.

Dhakira Talbot, the boy's mother, told Bay News 9 that she does not believe the school acted appropriately.

"I'm upset," she said. "I'm angry. I'm hurt, 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."

The substitute teacher shared her account of the situation in a statement to the school district, according to Bay News 9.

In it, she says that she asked the boy, "Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live," to which she says he responded, "They brought me here."

She then told him he can "always go back," according to the statement, and went on to tell the student that she was from Cuba and would leave the U.S. if she ever felt unwelcome.

At this point, she called the school's office.

A school resource officer was called in to check out a disturbance in the classroom.

"A student in the 6th grade created a disruption in the classroom," Lakeland police reported in a news release. "The School Resource Officer and Dean of Students responded to the classroom and attempted to calm the student down. The student was asked over 20 times to leave the classroom by the Dean of Students."

When the student leave, police say he "created another disturbance and made threats while he was escorted to the office."

The boy was arrested on charges of disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence.

The police department stated, "To be clear, the student was NOT arrested for refusing to participating in the pledge; students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance as noted in the Polk County School Board Code of Conduct for Students."

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