Donald Trump has militarized The Pledge of Allegiance, asking his rally followers to pledge not to the U.S. but to him. That attitude has quickly sifted down into the nation’s schools. Even teachers, maybe especially teachers will tell us that not all teachers are good teachers, and substitute teachers face a far lower bar than that of full-time teachers. An 11-year-old child ran into the buzz saw of a poorly informed substitute teacher’s prejudice, and he is paying the price instead of the school district.
The 11-year-old refused to recite The Pledge of Allegiance. He told his substitute teacher that he thought the American flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to black people, according to a Bay News 9 report. According to the substitute teacher’s statement to district officials, she was substituting at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida. The woman ignited an incident that ended up unfairly punishing the six-grader.
The substitute teacher was identified by district officials as Ana Alvarez. She told him that if living in America “was so bad,” why did he not go somewhere else to live? The student answered:
‘They brought me here.’
What Alvarez did not understand was that the school did not insist that the students recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Instead, she told the student:
‘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.’
In 1943, the Supreme Court ruled that schools cannot require students to salute the flag or recite the pledge, citing First Amendment rights. The case was West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette.
The student’s mother Dhakira Talbot told Bay News 9 the teacher was wrong. She also said that the school had gone way beyond what was appropriate when it took her son to a juvenile detention center. Her son was also suspended for three days after the incident:
‘I’m upset, I’m angry. I’m hurt. More so for my son. My son has never been through anything like this. I feel like this should’ve been handled differently. 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 substitute teacher’s statement said that the reason she phoned the district office was that she was tired of dealing with the boy.
District spokesman for the Florida school Kyle Kennedy told the Ledger the boy had been arrested for:
‘…(being)) disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions (from an officer and school officials.’
Kennedy emphasized that the student was not arrested for his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. He said that doing so was voluntary.
Spokesman for the Lakeland Police Department Gary Gross told The Washington Post that the student had been charged with disrupting a school facility and resisting an officer without violence during the February 4, 2019 incident. That was all the information the spokesman could release, because the child is a minor.
Kennedy noted that the school officials plan to improve substitute teacher training. He also said Alvarez was no longer employed by the district.
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.