Skip To Content
BuzzFeed News Home Reporting To You

A Florida Student Was Arrested After He Refused To Participate In The Pledge Of Allegiance

Police said they arrested the child because he "disrupted a school function" and "resisted an officer without violence," but not because he refused to recite the pledge.

Last updated on February 18, 2019, at 2:28 p.m. ET

Posted on February 18, 2019, at 12:29 p.m. ET

Pennsylvania students recite the Pledge of Allegiance in 2004.
William Thomas Cain / Getty Images

Pennsylvania students recite the Pledge of Allegiance in 2004.

A sixth-grade student in Florida was arrested when officials arrived in his classroom after he refused to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance, authorities said.

The student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Polk County refused to stand for the pledge on Feb. 4, according to a statement from the school.

Students aren't mandated to participate in the pledge, according to the school's rules.

"Unfortunately, a substitute teacher was not aware of this, and she engaged in an exchange of words with the student and called the school’s administration to come to her classroom," according to the statement from the school.

"The school’s resource officer, who is permanently assigned to the campus, also responded to the substitute’s classroom but was not called by the administration regarding the incident," the statement said.

The SRO decided to make the arrest. "No one from the school requested charges to be pressed or for an arrest to be made," the statement said.

The school did subsequently discipline the student. Bay News 9 reported the student — who was not identified because he is a minor — was suspended for three days. Representatives from the school and police didn't return a request for comment.

But both police and the school insisted that the student wasn't arrested because he refused to participate in the pledge.

"The student was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement," the school said. "This incident followed the daily Pledge of Allegiance in the classroom.

"To be clear, the student was NOT arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge," the school added.

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

Bay News 9 reported that the substitute teacher provided a statement to the district, saying that when she told the boy to stand for the pledge, he said the American flag is racist and that the national anthem is discriminatory toward black people.

"Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live," she said she asked him, according to Bay News 9. She said he responded, "They brought me here."

The substitute then said she responded by saying she arrived in the US from Cuba and would move elsewhere if she felt like she needed to.

"Then I had to call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with him," she said in the statement, according Bay News 9.

"The School Resource Officer and Dean of Students responded to the classroom and attempted to calm the student down," police said in a statement. "The student was asked over 20 times to leave the classroom by the Dean of Students."

Outside the classroom, the student "created another disturbance and made threats while he was escorted to the office," police said.

The student was arrested for "disrupting a school function" and "resisting officer without violence," police said, adding he was taken to a "juvenile assessment center."

"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," police said.

Dhakira Talbot, who Bay News 9 identified as the student's mother, said the teacher should have resolved the issue in a better way.

"I want the school to be held accountable for what happened because it shouldn’t have been handled the way it was handled," Talbot told the local television station.

The substitute, who worked for Kelly Services, was told to leave the facility.

"We are looking into this matter, but this substitute will no longer be allowed to work at any of our schools," the district said. "Our HR department has made contact with Kelly Services, which provides our substitutes, to further refine how our substitutes are trained."

"We do not condone the substitute’s behavior," the district added, saying, "we respect our students’ right to freedom of expression."

A spokesperson for Kelly Services said the incident is under investigation and "we do not discuss details specific to an individual publicly."

ADVERTISEMENT