An 11-year-old Florida boy faces misdemeanor charges after police said he created a classroom disturbance when he was ordered to leave for failing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
The child was arrested by a school resource officer earlier this month on misdemeanor charges of causing a disruption and resisting an officer without violence. The Polk County School District said in a statement that the boy was not taken into custody for refusing to participate in the pledge because kids may decline to participate under state law.
Rather, the sixth grader allegedly refused to leave the classroom when asked more than 20 times and allegedly made threats while being escorted to the office, according to a statement from the Lakeland Police Department.
His mother, Dhakira Talbot, said her son was in tears over the incident and has been bullied on campus in the past.
"I'm upset, I'm angry, I'm hurt," she told Bay 9 News. "More so for my son. My son has never been through anything like this. I feel like this should've been handled differently. If any disciplinary action should've been taken, it should've been with the school. He shouldn't have been arrested."
The incident began with a substitute teacher telling the boy to stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance. The boy said the flag was "racist," according to a handwritten statement submitted by the instructor.
The teacher asked the student why he didn't live elsewhere if he thought it was "so bad here," her statement said. According to her, he replied "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," the instructor replied.
She eventually called the office because she didn't want to keep "dealing with him," she wrote.
On Monday, the school district issued a statement saying no one at the school asked for the child to be arrested or for charges to be filed. Those decisions were made by the on-campus resource officer. The substitute teacher, hired through a temp agency, was asked to leave after she submitted her statement, according to the school district.
The woman will not be allowed to work at any district campus, the statement said.
"We do not condone the substitute's behavior. We respect our students' right to freedom of expression and we are committed to protecting that critical right while ensuring peaceful classrooms so all students can learn, the statement said.
A phone message left by InsideEdition.com with the Lakeland police was not immediately returned.