By Casey Quackenbush
February 19, 2019

A sixth grade student at a Florida school was arrested for disruption and resisting arrest after a confrontation with a teacher in which he refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance, reportedly saying the flag was racist and the pledge was offensive to black people.

Spectrum Bay News 9 reports that the 11-year-old was removed from class on Feb. 4, suspended for three days, arrested shortly after and taken to a juvenile detention center. The dispute ensued after a substitute teacher at Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland asked him to stand up, reportedly unaware of that the school does not require participation during the pledge.

School district authorities stressed that the student was arrested for disruption, not for refusing to stand. The Ledger cites Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy saying the student repeatedly refused to follow instructions from school staff and law enforcement, adding that students “are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance.”

According to a statement submitted to the district, the teacher reportedly told the boy, “Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live.” He reportedly replied saying, “they brought me here.” She then responded by saying, “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 teacher then said she called the office because she “did not want to continue dealing with him,” according to her statement cited by Spectrum Bay News 9.

The student’s mother Dhakira Talbot wants the charges to be dropped, and says the incident could have been handled better.

“She was wrong. She was way out of place. 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,” said Talbot. “I want the charges dropped and I want the school to be held accountable for what happened because it shouldn’t have been handled the way it was handled.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida called the incident “outrageous.”

Kennedy, the spokesman, said Alvarez will no longer work as substitute teacher in in Polk County Public Schools, according to the Ledger.

“Our HR department will contact Kelly Services, which provides our substitutes, to further refine how our substitutes are trained,” Kennedy said.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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