Florida Student, 11, Arrested after Refusing to Recite Pledge of Allegiance
An 11-year-old boy attending a middle-school in Florida was charged with two misdemeanors after refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in class earlier this month.
The student who is black told the substitute teacher that the flag was a racist symbol and offensive to black people.
The teacher, Ana Alvarez, who emigrated from Cuba, told him to go back to his own country if he did not like it here.
The incident took place on February 4 at Lawton Chiles Middle School in Lakeland, which is east of Tampa.
Alvarez apparently was unaware that the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 that students have a First Amendment right to not recite the Pledge of Allegiance or salute the flag.
It's probably mandatory in Cuba to pledge allegiance to the government, something that many of her colleagues would like happen here, judging by the number of times they have failed to respect the ruling over the years.
The boy, who apparently is an immigrant himself, told the teacher that he was brought here against his will, telling her, "They brought me here."
"Well, you can always go back because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I'm not welcome here anymore, I would find another place to live," Alvarez responded.
Alvarez quickly got tired of "dealing with him," according to her statement to Polk County School District, and called the administrative office for assistance.
That was when the school resource officer along with a school administrator ordered him to leave the classroom, but he refused to leave despite them asking more than 20 times.
“Suspend me! I don’t care. This school is racist,” he reportedly told the school administrator when he finally agreed to leave the classroom.
But on the way to the administrative office, he began threatening to beat the teacher, according to the press release by Lakeland Police Department, which resulted in him being charged with disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence.
But the boy's mother, Dhakira Talbot, said he never threatened the teacher and the charges should be dropped.
“She was wrong. She was way out of place,” Talbot told Bay News 9. “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.”
Despite the Supreme Court ruling more than 70 years ago, schools still try to force students to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
Last year in Texas, a high school expelled a student for sitting during the pledge.
And many students throughout the country have been berated, sent to the office, had parents contacted and threatened with expulsion for expressing their Constitutional right to not recite the Pledge.
Lakeland police stressed that they did not arrest the boy for refusing to recite the Pledge but for his actions following the refusal.
“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,” according to a press release.
But it was the teacher's choice to violate his Constitutional rights and it was the administrator's choice to further escalate the conflict.
And finally, it was the school resource officer who chose to arrest him, so they all should be sued.
The district, despite its hand in escalating the situation, placed the blame on Alvarez, saying she needed better training and that she is no longer substitute teacher in the district.
But history shows she was only taking after her colleagues.