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Student arrested for disrupting class 'was NOT arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge'

Posted: 7:20 AM, Feb 18, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-18 21:28:45-05
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LAKELAND, Fla. — A 6th grade student at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy was arrested for disrupting the classroom on February 4, 2019 and now Lakeland Police are releasing more information about the controversial arrest.

On Sunday, February 17, Lakeland Police shared a release on the incident on Twitter.

According to police, on February 4, 2019, a School Resource Officer with the Lakeland Police Department and the Dean of Students responded to a disturbance in a classroom at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy to calm a student down.

The student was asked more than 20 times to leave the classroom by the Dean of Students and the School Resource Officer intervened, asking the student to leave the classroom and the student refused.

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Police say the student eventually left the classroom and created another disturbance, making threats while he was escorted to the office at the school.

The student was arrested for Disrupting a School Function and Resisting Officer without Violence and was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.

Polk County Public Schools says the disturbance in the classroom followed the daily Pledge of Allegiance. School officials say students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance and in a release, the district says "unfortunately, a substitute teacher was not aware of this and she engaged in an exchange of words with the student and called the school's administration to come to her classroom."

The school district says the School Resource Officer made the decision to arrest the student and the school did not request charges to be pressed or for an arrest to be made.

The substitute teacher, hired by Kelly Services, was asked to leave campus immediately after providing a written statement, according to Polk County Public Schools. The district says this substitute teacher will no longer be allowed to work at any of their schools.

School officials say they discussed the district's Code of Conduct with the student and his family and disciplinary measures were taken in accordance with their Code of Conduct.

"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."
Polk County Public Schools

The Lakeland Police included the following statement about the arrest in a press release: "To be clear, the student was NOT arrested for refusing to participate in the pledge; students are not required to participate in the Pledge of Allegiance as noted in the Polk County School Board Code of Conduct for Students. This arrest was based on the student’s choice to disrupt the classroom, make threats and resisting the officer’s efforts to leave the classroom. The students name is not being released in accordance with Florida Public Record Laws regarding juveniles arrested for a misdemeanor."