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Florida sixth-grader arrested after confrontation over Pledge of Allegiance

LAKELAND, Fla. >> A Florida sixth-grader faces charges of disrupting a school function and resisting arrest after a confrontation that followed his refusal to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.

In a statement Sunday, Lakeland Police say a school resource officer was alerted to a disturbance created by a student in the classroom at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy on Feb. 4.

According to police, the student initially refused to leave the room, continued to be disruptive and made threats while being escorted to the school’s office by the officer and the school’s dean.

The statement says the student was charged based on his failure to comply with the officer’s and the dean’s orders, not his refusal to participate in the pledge. Polk County students aren’t required to stand for the pledge.

In a WTSP-TV report, the boy’s mother said the 11-year-old normally declines to stand for the pledge. He had a substitute teacher on Feb. 4 and she had ordered him to stand up.

The boy’s mother said the school should have disciplined her son differently. He has moved to a private school.

In a statement Monday, school district officials said the substitute teacher had not been aware of the policy allowing students to opt out of the pledge.

She was asked to leave the school after the boy’s arrest and she would no longer be allowed to work in any of the district’s schools, officials said.

According to the statement, the officer decided to arrest the student, though no one from the school requested to press charges.

“We do not condone the substitute’s behavior. We respect our students’ right to freedom of expression and we are committed to protecting that critical right while ensuring peaceful classrooms so all students can learn,” the statement said.

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