LAKELAND, Fla. — An 11-year-old refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and ended up arrested. His mother is demanding the charges be dropped.
The sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy was arrested and taken to a juvenile detention center, charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence — a decision that isn’t sitting well with his mother, Dhakira Talbot. Talbot said her son is in gifted classes and has been bullied in the past.
“I’m upset. I’m angry. I’m hurt. Moreso for my son. My son has never been through anything like this, and I feel they should’ve handled this differently,” said Talbot.
The Feb. 4 incident started when a substitute teacher asked the boy to stand up for the pledge. He reportedly told the substitute teacher the flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to people who are African-American.
In a statement to the district, the substitute teacher reported asking the boy why, if it was so bad here, he didn’t go live somewhere else. She said he then said, “They brought me here.”
She said she told him, “Well, you can always got back.” She said she’s from Cuba and the day she felt unwelcome here, she’d find somewhere else to live.
“She was wrong. She was way out of place,” said Talbot.
The substitute teacher wrote that she called the office because she “didn’t want to continue dealing with him.”
According to the arrest affidavit, the student was arrested 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, an accusation he said just isn’t 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,” said Talbot.
A school district spokeswoman 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 won’t be able to work at any of the district’s schools, and the district is still looking into the matter.