Hypocritical views on freedom of speech clash with pledge refusal


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The unnamed sixth grader was arrested on Feb. 4 for disrupting a school function and resisting an officer without violence.

A sixth-grade student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida was arrested following his refusal to stand for the pledge of allegiance earlier this month. When asked why he would not stand by his teacher, the boy, who is remaining unnamed, called the U.S. flag racist and the national anthem offensive. Following an argument, the boy was arrested for what the school claims, and he denies, was a choice to disrupt the class, make threats and refuse an officer’s orders to leave the classroom.

After the student’s statements about the flag and national anthem, his substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez, is reported to have asked him why he does not go live somewhere else if it is so bad in this country, to which the boy responded with “They brought me here.” After telling the boy he could always go back, Alvarez called the school’s office in order to remove him from the class. Since these events, Alvarez is no longer working with the school district, and the student has been moved to a different school by his mother, who stands by and supports her son’s decision.

“My son is an amazing kid,” she said in an interview with NBC News, and the way that he was treated is not fair.”

These events that took place bring forward the question of the ethics of the sixth-grader’s treatment and arrest. At the end of the day, the same people who strongly defend the First Amendment’s right to freedom of speech are also outspoken against those who use this right to protest what they perceive as racism that goes unchecked in the United States. The sixth grade student had every constitutional right to not stand for the flag.

Also, the statements the teacher said against him were inappropriate and racist. Telling a child of color that he could go back where he came from is something that should never be said by anyone, especially a teacher. Teachers are supposed to act as a guide for the future generation, and somebody who children can look up to and learn from. Making comments like these does nothing but harm the self esteem a teacher needs to be helping their students build.

Regardless of threats the boy supposedly made, or disruptions, at the end of the day he is a child and was just treated with immense disrespect from his own teacher. Is arresting a young boy who can be easily escorted from the classroom by a higher up at the school necessary? It is not whatsoever. The boy was reacting to what he felt was an injustice, and rather than diminishing his character, he should be applauded for being able to have the bravery to think critically at such a young age. Rather than make claims in an effort to defend themselves on the reasons for his arrest, both the police officers involved and the school should be focusing on apologizing to not only the student and his mother, but the entire African American community that feels they are given unequal treatment in America.