A Florida teacher was removed from school after footage captured him berating a student who did not stand for the Pledge of Allegiance of the United States.
The video, which quickly racked up 1.4 million views on TikTok after surfacing Thursday, showed the teacher standing directly behind a seated student while launching his verbal attack. The adult has been identified by multiple local news outlets as art teacher Robert Reiber at Manatee High School in Bradenton, Florida.
“My friend didn’t stand for the pledge and this what the teacher said,” a student with the username @scobbydooo1 captioned the clip.
Reiber yelled in the footage, “You are gonna sit there on your butt!”
He paused, seemingly watching for a reaction while the student gazed straight ahead, not making eye contact.
Then Reiber said, “Don’t shake your leg. If you want to do something, get up and do it. I will defend my country til the very end.”
The student said quietly, “I won’t hurt you.”
Riber snapped back, “Then go back to your—where are you from? Mexico or Guatemala, where?
“I was born here,” said the student.
“You were born here. And you won’t stand up for the flag?” said Reiber.
Mike Barber, Communications Director for the Manatee County Schools District, told Newsweek the teacher was “removed from the school” the day the incident occurred and no longer has contact with any students. However, Reiber has not been fired.
“The school district’s Office of Professional Standards is thoroughly investigating the incident in accordance with district and state due process policies and procedures,” said Barber.
The school district’s 2022-2023 Code of Student Conduct references Section 1003.44 in the Florida Statutes education code, which “requires the Pledge of Allegiance be recited at the beginning of each school day.”
“When the pledge is recited, students shall stand with the right hand over the heart,” said the student code supplied by Barber. “With a written request by a student’s parent or guardian, a student will be excused from reciting the pledge, including standing and placing the right hand over his or her heart.”
Disputes over student rights during the Pledge of Allegiance have spilled over to the courts.
In 2017, high school senior India Landry was expelled from Windfern High School outside Houston, Texas, after repeatedly refusing to stand during the pledge. Landry sued the school and the Texas attorney general intervened, arguing that “school children cannot unilaterally refuse to participate in the pledge.”
That case ended in a settlement, but federal district judge Keith P. Ellison determined that it could move forward on First and 14th Amendment grounds before it was dismissed.
Other student-teacher arguments over patriotic traditions have led to ugly fights.
In 2021, two high schoolers in Oklahoma were arrested and suspended following a confrontation with a teacher. According to their mother, the students refused to stand for the National Anthem during a pep rally and a dispute broke out with their teacher. The teacher allegedly told a police officer that she had been threatened and the students were detained.
Meanwhile, in 2018, a middle school teacher was placed on leave after allegedly assaulting a student who refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance in Colorado.