The criminalization of Black kids in schools continues with a new disturbing story coming out of Florida. A middle school student there was recently arrested in a “disturbance” resulting from his refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance.

On February 4th, the 11-year-old student refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance at his school, Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida. When substitute teacher Ana Alvarez tried demanding that the student, who is black, stand for the pledge, he reportedly answered he would not “because the flag of the country is racist.” He then started to explain why the national anthem was offensive to black people.

This got Ms. Alvarez all the way in her feelings. So much so that she attempted to violate the young student’s first amendment rights, seeing as the supreme court has already ruled that compelling school children recite the pledge or salute the flag violates freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment.

But violating the young man’s constitutional rights apparently wasn’t enough for Ms. Alvarez, and she decided she would sprinkle in some racist comments as well. She reportedly asked the student why he didn’t “go back” and leave America if he “didn’t feel welcome”

Dhakira Talbot, the 6th grader’s mother was understandably shocked.

“I’m upset, I’m angry. I’m hurt,” she said. “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.”

According to Talbot her son is in gifted classes and has been bullied at school in the past.

The school district has shared that the substitute teacher was “unaware” that students are not required to stand for the pledge and said she will no longer be allowed to work in the district.

While this story is going viral let’s remember that it is just one disturbing case in the ongoing pattern of criminalizing black students in schools.


Josh Stewart considers himself a global citizen first and foremost and is passionate about cultural exchange. He has a B.s. in Political Science and Hispanic Studies from St. John's University in Minnesota and experience as both an ESL and social studies teacher in Korea and the Philippines. He currently works a digital content Manager for Citizen Education and Education Post and enjoys both traditional and creative methods crafting messages around the desperate need to improve our education system and provide quality options to the most marginalized students and families.


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