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2 FPC Students’s Threats Targeting Teacher Were Racially Motivated; Criminal Charges Still Possible

| December 11, 2018

FPC's diversity is not under threat despite isolated incidents, officials say. (© FlaglerLive)

FPC’s diversity is not under threat despite isolated incidents, officials say. (© FlaglerLive)

Warning: this story includes quotes of explicit, racially insensitive language.

Monday’s incident that led to the investigation and removal of two Flagler Palm Coast High School students over online threats was a lot more grave than district or law enforcement officials revealed at the time: the threats, ostensibly made in a joking context, were laced in the vilest racist and violent language by the two students against their 46-year-old language arts teacher, who is black–and who had to get an extra sheriff’s watch on her home.

“My nigger teacher,” one of the two 16-year-old students wrote during second period Monday, “is pissing me off,” adding, “Im in a bad mood already. I swear im gonna stomp on her fucking face and smash her weave into the ground,” according to an incident report obtained by FlaglerLive.

The other 16 year old–one is a girl, the other a boy, both are white and from Palm Coast–responded with “LMFAOOOOOO,” and writes: “Im about t stomp out of this class, Like fucking throw the desk at her and leave.”

“Kill her,” the other one writes.

“I will,” adding: “I won’t get in trouble, you know why?”

“Cuz niggers don’t have rights,” the other one writes. They go on to ask each other when they’re going to “kill her,” and one of them writes of knowing the teacher’s address. They set a time: 1:35 a.m. “Okay okay good. We have a time set.” One of them writes: “WERE GONNA GET AWAY WITH MURDUR TONIGHT.”

“Thye gonna give you a medal for killing a nigge,” one writes.

“Well its not really murder. Were doing the world an amazing thing.”

The incident report adds: “The chat continues as [one of the students] continues to tell racist jokes” (sic.).

The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office investigated the threats on Monday and concluded that “there is a joking manner to the conversation,” according to the report. “The threats made in the conversation do not appear to be credible. There will be no charges filed at this time.”

“I cannot believe that they passed this off as a joke,” Linda Sharpe-Matthews, president of the Flagler branch of the NAACP, said this morning, incensed, “that anybody who’d read the hateful things that were on this, plotting, how they were going to do it, throwing a desk at her, it’s a hate threat, and absolutely credible, and these students should be punished. They should at least be suspended from the school, they should be removed from the facility, at the very least. This is no joke. I don’t see how anyone could interpret this as a joke. And the language that was used–absolutely not.”

NAACP Flagler Branch President Linda Sharpe-Matthews. (© FlaglerLive)

NAACP Flagler Branch President Linda Sharpe-Matthews. (© FlaglerLive)

Matthews added: “My position is that it should not be tolerated, it should not be treated as a joke, it’s a very serious matter, and for it to be treated otherwise shows a total disregard for racial sensitivity, and the teacher should take it as a threat, a credible threat, and I am concerned about her safety.”

The students were, in fact, removed from campus and absent an override from the school board, are not likely to return there. “We’re looking at a suspension and at an alternate placement,” FPC Principal Bob Wallace said this afternoon. He called the language the students used “disgusting, and said the school was handling the case “appropriately.”

Late this afternoon, a sheriff’s official said that concluding that there is to be no charges at this time “was kind of premature.”

“The sheriff is extremely appalled at the behavior of these individuals,” Chief Mark Strobridge said, “and he certainly wants to make sure that there’s no stone unturned in looking at this from a criminal aspect as well. Somebody being a racist in and of itself is not a crime, but if there is criminal activity there, those inflammatory statements and such could change the nature of the case.” The case remains assigned to an investigator (in this case, George Hristakopoulos).

One of the students, the girl, told detectives that “the conversation was a joke and [she] she no intentions of harming anyone,” according to the sheriff’s report, and that she did not actually know the teacher’s address. She said she was mad at the teacher because she was not being allowed to make up some work. The boy echoed the girl’s statement and said, according to the report, that “they we joking and if anyone asked any student they would understand it was a joke.” The boy “stated that the way he spoke with on the computer is the way that students speak to each other.” The report makes no reference to either student’s awareness of the violence and bigotry of the language used.

“I didn’t take that as anything joking at all, myself,” Wallace said, “and what I’m seeing over the years is that students through social media and technology are losing their filter, meaning they can hide behind that screen, that monitor, that piece of technology, and say and put out there things they normally wouldn’t say or think about doing, because they feel immune, because they’re not face to face with anybody, and it’s not just this instance but other instances like this, and it’s disturbing.”

The two students were chatting on chatting utility through the school-issued computers. A teacher somehow noticed the line about “MURDUR,” and referred the sighting to Dean Erin Davis, who then had the chat logs examined through the district’s technology staff. The analysis revealed the rest of the chat.

An initial investigation downplays bigoted threats as jokingly made.

On Monday, District Spokesman Jason Wheeler said that even though the sheriff was not pursuing charges, the district would be conducting its own investigation to determine the fate of the two students, taking various factors into account.

District Board attorney Kristy Gavin was aware of the case but not involved. “I’m certainly available if they need guidance and assistance but I’m not involved at this point,” Gavin said. “We try and keep things without it being elevated up, we try to keep things at school-based level or department level. We attempt to provide the training to the administrators so that they’re comfortable in making decisions without having to involve me on every situation.” She said the student Code of Conduct and district policies would be controlling, though both address the current issue only tangentially and generally.

The closest application of the code to the present case is its cyberstalking provision: “Cyberstalking as defined in s. 784.048(1)(d), F. S., means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.” The two students were referring to a specific person, but not directing their language at that person. The code also refers to “Use of technology/computer resources in an unacceptable manner, but without meaning to harm others” (though the examples the code provides hew more toward accessing unauthorized websites than exchanging slurs and threatening statements about a third party) and the vaguer “Non-threatening activity that is not appropriate in a school setting.”

documenting hate“If a conversation is happening and a statement is said and it is known to not be serious, that’s one thing,” Gavin said, “but at the same time if it’s a slur, it doesn’t matter what you’re getting at, still can’t do it. It’s not an easy area, it’s a gray area and you have to take it on a case by case basis in looking at it.”

The a “matrix” applies in deciding what penalty the student may be exposed to, Gavin said, with previous behavior taken into account.

Addressing the matter later this afternoon, Wallace said that he’d been told the sheriff’s investigation was still ongoing, and that it was taking place independently of the school’s. But as far as the students were concerned, the recommendation will be that they be enrolled in Rise Up, a home-instruction program, and that they not return to FPC. It’ll then be up to the district to place them elsewhere once their suspension runs out. No student may be expelled for more than a school year.

That students claimed they were chatting with each other as they normally would speak with each other suggests that racist slurs may be bandied about with a carelessness or contempt disproportionate to the gravity of the slurs. But officials from the NAACP’s Matthews to Gavin to both FPC’s current and former principals say there is no racial problem at the school.

FPC Principal Bob Wallace. (FPC)

FPC Principal Bob Wallace. (FPC)

“In the short time that I’ve been here, I would have to say no,” Wallace, who took over for Dusty Sims just as school was starting this fall, said. “I think I’ve seen everyone here seem to get along, and there’s, again, it’s a very short snapshot, but I’m very proud of how our kids interact with each other and with their instructors as well.”

Sims–who took a job with the state Department of Education, but who still lives in the county–echoed his successor. He worked at FPC for 15 years. He said what attracted him to the school was its “melting pot” atmosphere, the ability of its immense student body (whose 2,600 students are close in number to the total population of Bunnell) to mix students from the West side with Palm Coast urbanites, Flagler Beach and everything in between. There’s been issues, Sims said, recalling problems with the Confederate flag in a truck’s bed a few years ago, racial language used here and there, but the problems have been isolated. “They all just got along and it works,” he said of the student body. “It’s always been really positive.”

Matthews herself concurs, being more surprised–and shocked–by Monday’s incident, and bothered by the sheriff’s muted response, than worried about anything systemic. She said racial problems date back several years to the early days of Matanzas High School, where the student body was initially predominantly white.

FPC, despite its size, she said, and because of its greater diversity, has had it calmer. “I’m really surprised that as diverse as FPC has become, this is still going on,” Matthews said. “This isn’t just throwing around the N word, this is just hateful. It’s not the lyrics in a rap song. This is hateful. This is students who’ll be sitting around a classroom with a teacher of color or students of color. This is how they feel, they put it in writing, and that’s learned behavior, they have to feel that it’s OK and they’re going to get away with it, and they are. This is why I don’t understand why the sheriff’s department doesn’t take it seriously. Well, I understand why the sheriff’s department doesn’t take it seriously, because they’re not diverse and they’re not tolerant, either.”

The NAACP and the sheriff’s office have had their issues in recent years. Hearing Matthews’ comments, Strobridge put it this way: “From Sheriff Staly on down through the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, we all are responsible to all the citizens of this community, and every crime is reviewed as a serious nature regardless who the person is, what they believe, or the color of their skin.”

Wallace flatly rejected the notion of Monday’s incident as “kids will be kids,” giving no room to the notion that the incident could be rationalized, and said “it’s disappointing we have this spike.”

There are 16 black teachers and six black staff members at FPC out of a total of 185, an 11 percent ratio that matches precisely that of Flagler County. The ratio would be lower if non-faculty members are excluded. District-wide, just 3 percent of teachers are black. The district-wide proportion of black employees rises to 11 percent when service employees are included.

FlaglerLive is part of ProPublica’s Documenting Hate network.

41 Responses for “2 FPC Students’s Threats Targeting Teacher Were Racially Motivated; Criminal Charges Still Possible”

  1. Ben. says:

    I swear … this county has the most bizarre incidents. Wake up and smell reality. The world has bigger issues to fry………….and palm coast drags behind. Seriously, Daytona along LPGA is killing us with development. We get more gas stations……..but economic development is awful. Time for a new Director. The economic development board is not accomplishing anything. Time for new faces…..

  2. ASF says:

    The parents of Palm Coast seem to be teaching their children all they need to know to succeed in life and make the world a better place. Not.

  3. Steve Robinson says:

    There is no mention in the article about what sort of interaction school officials or the sheriff’s office have had with these two kids’ parents. I’m struck by the irony of their being “punished” by perhaps having to finish the school year in Rise Up, “a home-instruction program,” where they will undoubtedly continue the course of study they’ve already received at home.

  4. Disgusting says:

    Charge them with a hate crime. Sorry, not a joke to threaten someone’s life. Intolerable.

    Disgusting, bigoted behavior. I’m ashamed anyone would speak that way, let alone a child. I’m Sorry to the teacher who was the victim of such hatred. We don’t all feel that way.


    An embarrassed white woman

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    I am highly disappointed in the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.

    You have two students openly discussing a plan to commit assault at the least and possibly murder. When did that become a joking matter or even tolerated? And it’s documented so they can’t even back track. Where are the charges?

    I am also disappointed in the School Board.

    Is it simply because this hatred was directed at an African American Teacher that it’s being “Passed Of As A Joke”? If it was directed at a Caucasian Teacher I imagine you would have all resources thrown into this issue and charges would be instantaneous.

    The school board in this county is becoming a joke. They are responsible for ensuring that our youth are educated in a safe and productive environment. They are also responsible for making sure that their staff are able to work in a safe environment.

    In less than a week you have had one student bring a loaded weapon into a school. You then have two students ( who need to be publicly identified as well) make open threats to a staff member.

    To the entire School Board I say you have serious issues that need to be corrected before something happens.

  6. Nancy N. says:

    Ben, the Daytona Beach metro area has nearly 6 times the population of Palm Coast, and attracts tens of thousands of people for major events like bike week and NASCAR races multiple times per year. To expect that suburban little Palm Coast could attract the level of development that city does is nuts. We’re nowhere near that level of community as a retail market.

  7. thisnthat says:

    are we sure this wasnt just lyrics from just about any rap song out there right now? i mean repeating rap lyrics to the untrained ear and one may get confused of racist sexist violence.

  8. Willy Boy says:

    A ‘slap on the wrist’ preferably with manacles seems appropriate.

  9. girl says:

    OMG – they made their parents proud.? What type of up bring did they have. A shame…

  10. Agkistrodon says:

    These two little sicko’s need some time in prison. @Disgusting, You should NOT be embarrassed to be white, They are no MORE a reflection of you, than are young blacks who commit crimes are a reflection of all Blacks. That is Prejudice and racism as well. To say that either statement is true is an utter falsehood. Personally I am represented by no COLOR, the only one who represents me is me.

  11. Mark101 says:

    Charge them, put them in jail for a while. These punks will do harm to someone in the years ahead unless they get some attention now. .

  12. atilla says:

    Maybe the student come from prominent or political parents.

  13. Just the facts says:

    No, this wasn’t a joke. What kind of parents raise kids like this?

  14. Linda says:

    There were incidents when I worked there in 2006-2007. Many students displayed the Confederate flag. The western part of Flagler county is still problematic with Confederate flags flying outside their homes. In 2011 at Matanzas High, I removed a student from class who was telling the other students how his grandfather could tell you which trees had been used for lynchings. He was obviously trying to intimidate, and claimed he was just telling some history. Bull! I no longer live in Flagler County. BTW, someone in the administration from the area and Georgia even told me that she couldn’t talk to parents from NJ like she could people from her area. Needless to say, I am so happy to be gone, and they probably are too. Teachers who care, unite please.

  15. Born and Raised Here says:

    This is a hate crime, and should be prosecuted to the highest intent of the law. If these students can talk and think like this, than they can be charged like adults.

  16. FPC Granny says:

    [Corrective note: the commenter is inaccurate. Social Sentinel was not involved in uncovering the chat, nor is it capable of detecting chat activity of that sort. The district legally monitors its own computers’ activity internally.–FL]

    By no means is this the proper way to speak and I do no not condone that!! BUT people, if you read close this was a “private online chat message” between two “teenage” students! The reason the school knows about the “chat” is because they are using Social Sentential….which monitors “all” online activity, FB, the web, chat messages, maybe even your bank!!! This is an invasion of privacy…..I am sure that most students, teachers, or guests are NOT aware that everytime you are “near” or “on” the FPC campus that your online interactions are being monitored and tracked thus read by Social Sentinel. Obviously, the kid got up at the end of class and did not throw the desk….so I would think he was just “mouthing” off!! BUT of more concern to me is the “invasion of privacy”, a company monitoring everything we all do. The main set up for this company is at the Government Building. Imagine the amount of information housed in that building that this company can get their hands on….hummm “leaking” maybe a possibility??

  17. Appalled says:

    @thisnthat: As an educated woman who holds a masters degree and is working on her doctorate, I listen to rap music from old school to the new “thisnthat” music and let me be the first to tell you, those are NOT lyrics to ANY rap song. Sure the “N” word gets used but those are NOT rap lyrics so you can say, you’ve just been “schooled”!

    Those kids are an example of what our country has deemed acceptable due to the (and here we go) people who run this country who think its okay to be racist and promote disgusting behavior. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree so this is definitely learned behavior from their oh so proud parents.

    I feel awful for the instructor who was subjected to such hate from those she is attempting to prepare to be our future. God help her!

    Also, as I tell my son, if you do your work on time then you have no need to make-up work therefore there was no excuse for this hateful commentary just because one or both of them were “pissed” because their lack of responsibility prevented them from completing their assignment when it was due. If I miss a due date guess what, I don’t get a chance to make-up the work. I’m just saying..

  18. Michael Cocchiola says:

    America under its current leadership has seen racial intolerance grow and thrive. Incidences like this are surfacing all over the country. We need to have a serious discussion about racism and bigotry right here in Flagler County.

  19. ray says:

    so we think this is okay no its not

  20. ray says:

    So we think this is okay no it’s not.

  21. Richard says:

    Thank you Obama!

  22. Ray says:

    This is so unacceptable

  23. Phillip King says:

    I urge the Sheriff department to look into this matter deeper. By excusing the behaviors, not only are you creating a loop hole for future behaviors and violence towards people of color in our community, but you are doing what they said… allowing them to “get away with it”.

  24. JustBeNice says:

    The teacher has every right to pursue charges. I hope she does. And ASF, generalizing an entire population is a huge part of the problem.

  25. Deb says:

    “”” What kind of parents raise kids like this? “” I would sayrRacist parents

  26. tulip says:

    Those two should be charged!!! There are so many crazies, violent and mislead people out there that it is impossible to decide who is just making threats and who really means it and will actually do people harm. I believe the worst should be thought and the individuals punished to the full extent of the law and make sure that the people know this has been done and the next person that does this will also be fully punished.

    Nowadays, people hear all the time on tv about people being shot and their attitude is “oh well”. Now we seem to be having the same attitude to those who threaten others, Humanity seems to be on the decline.

  27. Bob says:

    Sons n daughters of trump supporters

  28. iron says:

    @Bob. Here is why the pattern continues. People who make genralizations. I supporter our president Trump and so do my parents but we do not in any way support this behavior. It is not a political issue like you are trying to claim. It is an issue with how these lovely students were raised. Treating others the way you would want to be treated has nothing to do with politics! Basic decency is the bottom line.

  29. Keiner says:

    hey, thats my friend yikes.

  30. alsodisgusted says:

    I totally agree with @disgusted well said. Let everyone know who they are and don’t let them finish school

  31. Disgusting says:

    @Agk…I was not saying I am embarrassed to be white, I was saying I am embarrassed that a white person in this day and age would talk or think like that. Thanks for the schooling, but it’s unnecessary. If you don’t denounce it , you endorse it, even if silently. Glad they are pressing charges. Have a nice day.

  32. Dave says:

    This is a major blemish on the Sheriff, premeditated murder plans that are racially motivated with no arrests? This is unheard of especially considering you have it all in writing. These YOUNG ADULTS should be made an example of, they should be tried as adults and expelled from all Florida schools.

  33. Bonnie says:

    Invasion of Privacy…………….Real problem in this country ever since Cell Phones came out.
    None of your freaking business what I say to a friend about ANYTHING. Spying on students thru their electronic devices is an attack on our Constitutional Rights………Reading these comments just goes to show how RACISIM goes both ways…..Disgusted with @Disgusted

  34. Flabbergasted says:

    May God protect us from Deputy Sheriffs who would pass this off as “joking.”

  35. RA says:

    FPC Granny – Students have no privacy rights when they are using school issued laptops. They are told that repeatedly. Those computers are given to them for the sole purpose of completing schoolwork. Those students were in two different rooms chatting online when they were supposed to be working on assignments. That in itself is a violation of the student code of conduct. Everything they do on their school issued laptops can be retrieved and examined by school staff.

  36. palmcoaster says:

    Kudos to you RA said it perfect!
    I remember the issue in my neighborhood of a student years ago displaying a huge Confederate Flag in his truck across the street of a house for sale..with the consequent effect as per the realtor… so the flag had to go.
    I have nothing against the confederate flag myself while living in the south now, but some do…

  37. Weldon Ryan says:

    This Trump climate says it’s ok to to treat any non white person in this manner. Flagler voted against their interest based on racism in the past two elections so it is not surprising that the mindset of these teens,and the dismissive nature of the authorities are this way.

  38. Mixedkid says:

    @bonnie Considering that both students were minors on school grounds and that the communication devices that they used were issued BY THE SCHOOL, the school has every right to monitor their communications. I recently graduated from FPC and the faculty made it very clear to us that they were monitoring our activity on the school computers (mostly for testing purposes and because of the access to the internet). It is NOT an invasion of privacy. You’re argument is irrelevant and invalid.

  39. Jason Smalls says:

    I’m with her

  40. OG says:

    This is unacceptable. For those saying it was a privacy invasion and there’s freedom of speech, First of all they tell their students that they are for schoolwork and that they monitor what they do on it. Second, are you seriously saying that if someone threatens to kill someone, then makes plans to do so, that it’s ok cause freedom of speech. What the hell…NO… it’s never ok or acceptable to threaten another persons life. I hope they both are punished for this and I hope the the teacher is able to find peace soon. They don’t get paid enough to have to deal with this.

  41. anonymous says:

    honestly, this isn’t that big of a deal for her to not come to school for two weeks, the threat is gone and in the past.

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