An 11-year-old student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida was recently arrested after an argument with teachers and school administrators.
The student reportedly got into an argument with a substitute teacher after refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. The student told the teacher that the flag was racist and he did not want to stand. The teacher then engaged in a political debate with the 11-year-old boy, asking him the classic rhetorical question: “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you just move to another country?”
The student aptly replied, “they brought me here.”
According to Bay News 9, the teacher said, “Well you can always go back because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here any more I would find another place to live.”
The substitute teacher proceeded to call the office because she “did not want to continue dealing with him.”
The situation escalated and police were called to the classroom.
The teacher claims the 11-year-old child threatened her with violence, but the student denied the accusation. The student was eventually arrested for “refusing to obey multiple commands” after arguing with the adults and calling them racists.
According to the Washington Post, the child was charged with disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence. In short, he did nothing more than cause a scene. If the child were at all combative, he would have been charged with assaulting an officer or, at the very least, resisting an officer with violence.
Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy told The Ledger that the student “was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement.”
However, Kennedy insisted that the arrest was because of the child’s outburst and had nothing to do with his refusal to stand for the pledge. Kennedy added that students at the school “are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.” However, the school’s rulebook indicates that a parent’s permission slip is needed for a student to refuse to participate.
As a result of the incident, the student was suspended for three days and the substitute teacher will no longer be allowed to teach within the district, Slate reported.
The student’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, is demanding the county drop the charges against her son.
“I’m upset, 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,” Talbot said.
“She was wrong. She was way out of place. 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,” the boy’s mother added.
Altercations between students and teachers over the Pledge of Allegiance is surprisingly common.
Last year, physical education teacher Karen Smith of Angevine Middle School in Colorado was forced to retire from the profession after being charged with child abuse for assaulting a student who refused to stand.
In 1891, Baptist minister and socialist Francis Bellamy wrote the first draft of the Pledge of Allegiance for a nationalist propaganda magazine called Youth’s Companion. By the following year, the pledge was widely adopted in government schools across the US and was introduced in ceremonies to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s invasion of America. The Pledge of Allegiance has remained a staple of American culture ever since.
Many who are critical of the pledge have speculated that Bellamy’s campaign of nationalism was brought on by a massive fear of immigrants that the ruling class had at the time. It is said that the elites of the day wanted to create an identity and culture that excluded everyone who wasn’t born on American soil.
For full disclosure: The author of this article did receive detention in 6th grade for refusing to stand for Pledge of Allegiance.