LAKELAND, Fla. — An 11-year-old Polk County student refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, and after explaining his reasons, he was kicked out of class and eventually arrested for being disruptive and disobeying commands to calm down and leave the classroom.
- Incident happened February 4 at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy
- Student refused to stand for pledge; arrest report says he called school leaders racists
- His mother, Dhakira Talbot, wants charges dropped
- More Polk County headlines
He was also suspended for three days.
The incident happened at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland on February 4. The sixth grader was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center, charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence.
The student's mother, Dhakira Talbot, said her son is in gifted classes and has been bullied at the school in the past.
"I'm upset, I'm angry. I'm hurt," she 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."
The incident started when a substitute teacher asked the student to stand up for the pledge.
The student reportedly told the substitute teacher the flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to black people.
In a statement to the district, the substitute teacher reported telling the 11-year-old boy "Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live." She said he then said, "they brought me here."
She said she replied by saying, "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."
She wrote, "Then I had to call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with him."
Dhakira Talbot said the teacher was wrong.
"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," Talbot said.
According to the arrest affidavit, the student was arrested by the school resource officer because he refused to follow multiple commands, repeatedly called school leaders racist and was disruptive. They said he threatened to get the school resource officer and principal fired and to beat the teacher.
The student, who was with his mother when she was interviewed, told Spectrum News he didn’t threaten to beat the teacher.
Talbot is working with the Poor and Minority Justice Association to get some help with the matter.
"I want the charges dropped and I want the school to be held accountable for what happened because it shouldn’t have been handled the way it was handled," Talbot said.
A spokeswoman with the school district said students aren't required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, but the substitute teacher wasn't aware of this. The spokeswoman said the substitute teacher will no longer be able to work at any of the district's schools and the district is still looking into the matter.