Mom Defends Boy Arrested in ‘Racist’ Pledge of Allegiance Dispute

Sarah Henderson (L) and children from Mrs. Morrow's kindergarden class at Sunderland Elementry school recite the Pledge of Allegiance September 17, 2002 in Sunderland, Maryland.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
KATHERINE RODRIGUEZ

The mother of a Florida sixth grader, who was arrested for allegedly threatening a teacher after he refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, defended her son’s actions, telling NBC Nightly News that she told her son he should stand up for himself.

“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,” the boy’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, told NBC Nightly News.

Talbot’s son was in class at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, earlier in February when he refused to stand for the pledge, telling a substitute teacher that he was not doing so because he thought the American flag was “racist” and the national anthem was offensive to black people.

The situation escalated between the teacher and the student, causing the boy to be removed from the classroom.

A school resource officer later arrested the sixth-grade student for allegedly threatening a teacher and refusing to obey school officials’ orders.

The Polk County School District released a statement after the arrest, clarifying that the boy was not arrested for refusing to stand for the pledge, but for being “disruptive” and refusing to obey school officials and law enforcement:

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 school district also told the substitute teacher, who was not aware of the school’s policy on the pledge, that she could no longer teach at any schools within the district.

Talbot, who denied that her son threatened the teacher, told NBC News that she transferred her son to another school after the incident.

“I want my son to know, I don’t care what any other parent say or any other parents do, that I’m going to stand up for him,” Talbot said.

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