This article was originally published on www.theledger.com by Kimberly C. Moore on February 15, 2019
LAKELAND — An 11-year-old Lawton Chiles Middle Academy student was arrested Feb. 4 and charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence following a confrontation with school officials and a law enforcement officer.
The incident happened after his refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance and his refusal to stand after ordered by the substitute teacher.
Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy said the sixth-grader “was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement.”
Kennedy said he wanted to make it clear that the student was not arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge.
“Students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kennedy said.
Gary Gross, a spokesman for the Lakeland Police Department, said he could not legally comment because the case involved a minor charged with a misdemeanor.
According to a report on Bay News 9, the student allegedly told a substitute teacher that he didn’t want to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, that “the flag is racist and the national anthem is offensive to black people.”
District officials said the teacher’s name is Ana Alvarez. Kennedy said she was not aware of district policy regarding the pledge as voluntary.
She allegedly told the student, “Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live?”
Dhakira Talbot, the boy’s mother, told Bay News 9 that the teacher’s actions were inappropriate and that her son should not have been suspended.
“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.”
Kennedy said he could not discuss the student’s discipline. He said Alvarez will no longer serve as a substitute in Polk County Public Schools and that they will be reviewing their training policy with the outside agency that handles hiring substitute teachers.
“Our HR department will contact Kelly Services, which provides our substitutes, to further refine how our substitutes are trained,” Kennedy said.