12-Year-Old Rymfire Elementary Girl Faces 2 Felony Charges in Knife Incident at Bus Stop
FlaglerLive | February 19, 2014
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday filed charges of aggravated assault and the reckless display of a weapon, both felonies, against a 12-year-old Palm Coast girl who attends Rymfire Elementary school following an incident at a bus stop where the girl is accused of pulling a 12-inch knife and threatening a 10-year-old boy with it. Both the boy and the girl accused the other of teasing over a period of time leading up to Tuesday’s alleged incident.
The girl’s parents were startled by the alleged incident, and when the father saw the size of the knife in question, he spontaneously exclaimed, “That’s a sword.”
The girl was not arrested, though she was read her Miranda rights and was detained for a period at the school, and the knife was entered into evidence. The charges were filed with the State Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to formalize them, reduce them or drop them. The girl was not allowed back in class. The district has a zero-tolerance policy against the carrying, displaying, and of course the use of any weapons, which generally results in suspension or expulsion. But the age of the alleged suspect may weigh in the district’s decision on how to proceed.
Sgt. Don Apperson, the school resource deputy who investigated the case, “strongly suggested that prior to allowing [the girl] to attend any school within the school district, [school officials] should order a safety and threat assessment.” Rymfire Elementary Principal Paula St. Francis and Assistant Principal Timothy King, who were also involved in the investigation, agreed.
According to Apperson’s incident report, the alleged incident unfolded at a bus stop during Tuesday’s morning run. He had been told about a student bringing a knife to school. But Francis told him that “this was much more than originally reported as the bus driver and students were saying that the suspect actually pulled the knife out of her book bag and threatened to slash another student with it.”
King had both the suspect and the victim in his office when St. Francis and Apperson arrived. Apperson saw the alleged assailant sitting in front of the assistant principal’s desk, visibly upset, her face red and puffy from crying. King and St. Francis had already confronted the girl earlier, when the bus first rolled in with her on board. King and Francis, according to Apperson’s report, had taken custody of the girl and her bookbag “and escorted her to a private location to speak with her.” The girl denied bringing anything forbidden to school and said she did not want her bookbag searched.
She herself removed items from the bag. While the knife was immediately visible to King and St. Francis, the girl, according to the report, did not take it out of the bag. When the administrators questioned her about how the knife, she claimed she did not know how it had gotten into her bookbag, and that she’d never threatened anyone with it. When King showed the bookbag and the knife to Apperson, “it was obvious this met the statutory requirements as a weapon.”
At that point, Apperson asked King to call the girl’s parents. From the evidence of the report, the parents had not been called until then. Underage students accused of lawbreaking, and usually unaware of their rights, are liberally questioned neither with permission nor in the presence of parents, guardians or lawyers, though school administrators and faculty are not under the same legal strictures as police when questioning students, and often resolve issues before the involvement of parents (or police).
Speaking to the girl’s mother, Apperson explained what had been reported to him by the administrator, that her daughter was a suspect in a felony investigation, and that he would be reading the girl her Miranda rights before questioning her. Apperson asked the child’s mother if she wanted to be present before he proceeded. The mother did.
Meanwhile, Apperson spoke with the victim, who accused the girl of picking on him every day at the bus stop. “She tells him he has a big head and other mean things,” the report states. The boy is black. The girl is white. “He told his mother but no one else. His mother has told him to just ignore her and let it go. He said today for some reason she pulled out the knife and told him she was going to ‘stab him with it.'” Apperson asked the boy if he was afraid she was going to do it. The boy said he was, and provided a written statement. Apperson also spoke with the boy’s mother, whose chief concern was was the interaction of the two students moving forward. (That’s a determination by the district, pending the outcome of the criminal case.)
When the girl’s parents arrived, they were taken to the office where the girl was being detained. “They were both, by their reaction, facial expressions and verbal admissions,” Apperson reported, “caught off guard at the sight of the knife. They both thought when it was described as a kitchen knife they were thinking a steak knife.” That’s when the father made the remark, comparing the knife to a sword. It was also at that point–at 9:53 a.m.–that the child was read her Miranda rights, which her parents waived, enabling her to speak to Apperson without the presence of a lawyer, though her parents remained present.
That segment of the report is heavily redacted–the Sheriff’s Office may legally redact any statements that are or may be interpreted as a suspect’s admission of guilt–but the report also notes that when asked why the girl had acted as she did with the boy, “she would only offer that he picks on her every day at the bus stop, however, she has never reported it to an adult or school official.”
The charging affidavit reports that “other students reported” the incident to the bus driver, but neither the charging affidavit nor the incident report reflect interviews with students on the bus or at the bus stop other than the alleged suspect and victim.