An 11-year-old boy in Florida refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, later became disruptive and ended up getting arrested earlier this month.
The boy is a sixth grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida. He was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center, charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence.
Now, his mother, Dhakira Talbot, is demanding the charges be dropped.
Talbot said her son is in gifted classes and has been bullied at the school before this incident.
"I'm upset. I'm angry. I'm hurt, more so for my son. My son has never been through anything like this, and I feel they should've handled this differently," said Talbot.
The February 4 incident started when a substitute teacher asked the 11-year-old boy to stand up for the Pledge of Allegiance.
He 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, why didn’t he go to another place to live."
Talbot said her son then told the teacher, “(My family) brought me here.”
The teacher then told him, "Well, you can always go back." The teacher said she was from Cuba, and the day she felt unwelcome here she'd find another place to live.
"She was wrong. She was way out of place," Talbot said.
The substitute teacher then wrote she called the office because she, "didn't want to continue dealing with him.”
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.
Talbot said they also accused her son of threatening to get the school resource officer and principal fired and to beat the teacher. She says that is not true.
"I want the charges dropped and I want the school to be held accountable and the officer 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.
What police say happened
On Sunday, February 17, Lakeland Police shared a release on the incident on Twitter.
According to police, on February 4, 2019, a school resource officer with the Lakeland Police Department and the dean of students responded to a disturbance in a classroom at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy to calm a student down.
The student was asked more than 20 times to leave the classroom by the dean of students and the school resource officer intervened, asking the student to leave the classroom and the student refused, the police say.
Police say the student eventually left the classroom and created another disturbance, making threats while he was escorted to the office at the school.
The student was arrested for "disrupting a school function" and "resisting officer without violence" and was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
There are multiple reports circulating on social media about the student refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.
In the press release, the Lakeland Police included the following statement about the arrest: "To be clear, the student was NOT arrested for refusing to participate 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. This arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom. The students name is not being released in accordance with Florida Public Record Laws regarding juveniles arrested for a misdemeanor."
A student was arrested for disrupting the classroom on February 4th. To be clear, the student was NOT arrested for refusing to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance as some media outlets reported. https://t.co/hxtRB6uVok
— LakelandPD (@LakelandPD) February 18, 2019