An 11-year-old boy in Florida who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance ended up in a juvenile detention center after the situation escalated, authorities say. Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy says the sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, who disobeyed a substitute teacher's order to stand for the pledge, was arrested after "becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement," the Ledger reports. Kennedy says the boy was arrested on Feb. 4 because of disruptive behavior, not just to refusal to stand. "Students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance," he says.
School district authorities, however, say the substitute teacher wasn't aware that participation in the pledge was voluntary. Bay News 9 reports that the teacher told authorities that after the boy told her the flag was racist, she asked him "Why if it was so bad here he did not go to another place to live." He was charged with disrupting a school function and resisting arrest without violence. His mother, Dhakira Talbot, says the situation should have been handled differently. "If any disciplinary action should've been taken, it should've been with the school," she says. "He shouldn’t have been arrested." Officials say the teacher will no longer serve as a substitute in the district. (These students' grades suffered after they refused to stand for the pledge.)