A sixth-grade boy at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, was arrested earlier this month after an incident that began when he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, according to the Miami Herald.
Dhakira Talbot’s 11-year-old son would not stand for the pledge, telling the substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez, he felt the American flag is “racist,” which she reportedly found unacceptable.
Talbot’s son, who is black, was then asked by the teacher why he doesn’t leave the country.
The middle schooler’s mother said Alvarez “told my son to go back to his homeland,” WTSP reported.
“He was confused,” Talbot told WTSP. “He said, ‘What do you mean? Africa?’ She said, ‘Yeah.’”
The substitute teacher told the student “you can always go back” after he replied “they brought me here,” according to The Washington Post.
Alvarez then told the student that she came here from Cuba, adding, “and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore, I would find another place to live.”
Talbot’s son was subsequently arrested by police after he “was asked over 20 times to leave the classroom by the Dean of Students,” and allegedly made threatening comments.
Alvarez said she was forced to “call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with” the student.
The 11-year-old was charged with “disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence.”
However, the entire incident could have been avoided had Alvarez simply allowed the boy to sit out the pledge, as the school district does not require students to participate.
“To be clear, students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kyle Kennedy, from Polk County Public Schools, told the Patch. “Unfortunately, a substitute teacher was not aware of this.”
“The student was NOT arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge,” Lakeland police spokesman Gary B. Gross said, according to WFLA.
According to school officials, Alvarez will no longer be employed as a substitute teacher within the district, the Herald reported.