West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette

Oh, America. You’re so confused.

A Florida student is facing misdemeanor charges after a confrontation with his teacher that began with his refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and escalated into what officials described as disruptive behavior.

The student, a sixth-grader at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Fla., east of Tampa, refused to stand for the pledge in the Feb. 4 incident, 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 the boy.

Ok stop right there. The teacher had no business having any kind of exchange with the boy, because forced loyalty oaths are a fascist thing, not a liberal democracy thing.

People recite an oath when they become new citizens. That’s ok, that makes sense. They recite it once. They can go on reciting it as much as they like, of course, but it’s required only the once. People swear to things in court; that too makes sense, and has reasonable limits. Ordering children to swear a loyalty oath in school every single day is grotesque and intrusive and disgusting. It shouldn’t happen at all, but if it does happen (as it unfortunately does here) then children should have every right to abstain, period end of story. On paper they do have that right, because of a court ruling – so this teacher should have left the boy alone.

If living in the United States is “so bad,” why not go to another place to live? substitute teacher Ana Alvarez 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 school office, as she did not want to keep dealing with the student, according to the statement.

That’s her experience, and that’s fine, but it’s not part of her job to force it on the students.

Officials said the situation escalated. The student yelled at the administrative dean and a school resource officer with the Lakeland Police Department after they came to the classroom, accusing them of being racist and repeatedly refusing 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 classroom with his backpack, according to the affidavit.

I can’t help feeling a lot of sympathy for that kid – he shouldn’t be forced to recite a very substantive loyalty oath that he doesn’t believe in, and he shouldn’t be punished or hassled for refusing to recite it. Why wouldn’t he yell at them when he wasn’t doing anything wrong?

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida issued a rebuke in the wake of the controversy. “This is outrageous. Students do not lose their First Amendment rights when they enter the schoolhouse gates,” the group said on Twitter. “This is a prime example of the over-policing of Black students in school.”

The 11-year-old boy’s mother, Dhakira Talbot, was not immediately available for comment Sunday. But she told Bay News 9 that the teacher was wrong and that the school overstepped its authority by punishing her son, who was taken to a juvenile detention center and suspended for three days after the incident.

The school and the police say it’s not because of the pledge, it’s because of how he reacted to being thrown out of class over the pledge. Yeeeeeah that’s a distinction without a difference, folks.

In a statement Monday, Polk County Public Schools said the resource officer, not school officials, made the decision to arrest the student.

The school district said that students are not required to participate in reciting the pledge. In fact, the Supreme Court ruled in 1943 in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette that schools cannot require students to salute the flag or recite the pledge, citing First Amendment rights.

But the substitute teacher was not aware that students are not required to recite the pledge, the school district said, adding that officials will look at improving training for substitute teachers and that Alvarez no longer works in the district.

Oh ffs – really? Schools make kids say that shit every single day but they don’t manage to tell teachers that the kids have a legal right to refuse?

What a pathetic mess.

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