POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA/NBC) – The mother of a Polk County 6th grader at the center of a fierce debate after refusing to stand in class for the Pledge of Allegiance spoke out on Monday.
Police say Dhakira Talbot’s son was at school at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland this month when he chose not to stand and say the pledge.
He told the substitute teacher he thinks the flag and the national anthem are racist against black people.
“What happened that day, my son was doing what I asked him to do. I told my son that you stand up for yourself. Because in the way this world is today, if you don’t stand up for yourself, no one will,” Talbot told NBC Nightly News.
The confrontation escalated and the boy was removed from class.
The Polk County School District issued a statement, saying:
The student was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement. 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; students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance. 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. 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 School Resource Officer (SRO) made the decision to arrest the student. No one from the school requested charges to be pressed or for an arrest to be made.
The teacher called school administrators for help and when the boy allegedly created further disruptions and made threats, the school resource officer chose to arrest the student.
He is charged with causing a disturbance and resisting arrest.
Lakeland police say the “arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom.”
“I just think that they didn’t handle it the way they should have handled it,” Talbot told NBC.
The school district tells us it does not condone the substitute teacher’s behavior and the substitute was asked to leave the school after providing a written statement.
We are told that teacher will not be allowed back.