Photo: Eric Gay (AP)

Here is a surreal American story. In a sixth-grade classroom at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, a student declined to stand for the pledge of allegiance. Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, rightfully, does not mandate that students stand for the pledge. Unfortunately, the student’s substitute teacher wasn’t aware of that, and managed to escalate the situation wildly out of hand, eventually resulting in the student being charged with a misdemeanor.

Here’s the scene, as reported by the Washington Post:

The student, a sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Fla., east of Tampa, refused to stand for the pledge, telling the teacher that he thinks the flag and the national anthem are “racist” against black people, according to an affidavit. The teacher then had what appeared to be a contentious exchange with him.

If living in the United States is “so bad,” why not go to another place to live? Ana Alvarez, who was substituting at the school, asked the student, according to a handwritten statement from her.

“They brought me here,” the boy replied.

Alvarez 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.” She then called the district office because she did not want to keep dealing with the student, according to the statement.

I’ve worked as a substitute teacher before. There are some easy rules of thumb to follow to avoid situations like this. Number one is not to get in sensitive political arguments with sixth graders. Number two is that if you do get in a sensitive political argument with a sixth grader and that sixth grader proceeds to kick your ass (more likely that you may think!) you absolutely do not continue to escalate the situation and get the student arrested. The job of a teacher, in almost every conceivable situation, is to make it so the children you are teaching do not find themselves in situations where they’re going to get arrested. Here’s what the student actually did, per the Post:

Officials said the situation escalated. The student yelled at the dean and a school resource officer who came to the classroom, accused them of being racist and repeatedly refused to leave the room.

“Suspend me! I don’t care. This school is racist,” the student, who is black, told the dean as he walked out of the room with his backpack, according to the affidavit.

The student was later charged with disruption of a school facility and resisting an officer without violence.

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Resisting an officer without violence. They charged a sixth grader for what... making a scene? After correctly identifying the troublesome nuance behind blind shows of patriotism toward a symbol that means different things to different groups of people? Absurd.

School officials are now trying their utter best to cover their ass and make it clear that the student was not arrested for his flag protest, but for yelling at the cops afterward, which of course begs the question of why the fuck would you call the cops in this situation?

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Per the Lakeland Ledger:

Polk County Public Schools spokesman Kyle Kennedy said the sixth-grader “was arrested after becoming disruptive and refusing to follow repeated instructions by school staff and law enforcement.”

Kennedy said he wanted to make it clear that the student was not arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge.

“Students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance,” Kennedy said.

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Students get out of hand in school all the time. It is an absolute institutional failure if every level of school employee does not manage to de-escalate a situation with one angry kid enough to keep the cops away.

The student’s mother, of course, was incensed, according to local Bay 9 News.

The student’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, said her son is in gifted classes and has been bullied at the school in the past.

“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.”

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No, he absolutely shouldn’t have. Drop the charges and give this kid a college scholarship.