Student's Pledge of Allegiance Case Dismissed With Help From Roc Nation

Team ROC secured legal representation for Jabari Talbot, an 11-year-old who was arrested last month for refusing to say the Pledge of Allegiance in school.


Image via Getty/Nicholas Hunt


Team ROC has helped secure another legal victory.

The philanthropic division of JAY-Z's Roc Nation rallied in support of 11-year-old Jabari Talbot, a 6th grade boy who was arrested last month after refusing to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. The incident took place at Feb. 4 at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, where the student got into a heated exchange with a substitute teacher. According to Bay News 9, Jabari explained he would not participate in the pledge because "the flag was racist and the national anthem was offensive to black people."

The teacher, Ana Alvarez, then asked the student why he didn't simply leave the country if he hated it so much; Jabari reportedly responded: "They brought me here."

"Well you can always go back because I came here from Cuba," she fired back, "and the day I feel I'm not welcome here any more I would find another place to live."

Alvarez said she then contacted the school's main office because she "did not want to continue dealing with him." 

Jabari was arrested shortly after by a school resource officer, who claimed the student was being disruptive and refused to obey commands. An arrest affidavit states Jabari also threatened the substitute teacher with physical violence and told the principal and arresting officer he would get them fired.

The child's arrest eventually caught the attention of Team ROC, a Roc Nation division dedicated to assisting victims of racial injustice. The team has been involved in a number of high-profile cases, including the "hoodie arrests" in Tennessee, as well as 21 Savage's legal battle against Immigration and Customs Enforcement

Team ROC tapped famed attorney Alex Spiro to handle Jabari's case pro bono.

"Jabari is a courageous and intelligent young man who deserves all the credit for standing up for his beliefs," Spiro said in a statement. "He should've never been arrested or entangled in this situation—his freedom of speech rights were clearly protected under the 1st Amendment."

A number of Roc Nation athletes have also expressed their support for Jabari and his family. Miami Heat's Justise Winslow called the ordeal an "injustice," while Jacksonville Jaguars' Leonard Fournette praised the child for his strength.

"When I heard about Jabari's arrest, I immediately had my team reach out so I could offer my support for this unjust moment." Fournette said. "Jabari is a bright young student and I applaud him for the strength he has shown during this difficult situation. I know he's a huge football fan and I’m looking forward to having him come to a Jaguars game this season."

The wave of support clearly had an impact, as Jabari's case has since been dismissed. The 6th grader's mother, Dhakira Talbot, thanked the Roc Nation family for all their efforts and commitment to justice.

"My son and I are grateful for all the athletes, entertainers, Roc Nation and community of supporters that have raised awareness about this injustice and showed their support—both publicly and privately [...]" she said. "Although Jabari’s case has been dismissed, I do want people to know this isn’t just about my son—this prejudice happens to African-American kids all across the country. The fight isn’t over, which is why I have a civil rights complaint pending with the U.S. Department of Education. At the end of the day, I want to ensure that no child ever has to experience this injustice again and we will appreciate everyone’s continued support."

The system tried to force Jabari Talbot into diversion. Jabari did not commit a crime. Guilty plea refused. Case dismissed. We applaud and support you Jabari. #JabariTalbot

— Team Roc (@teamroc) March 1, 2019

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