Just nine days into the new school year, a 14-year-old student at Flagler Palm Coast High School was arrested on a felony charge of making written threats to kill. The boy did so in voice and text exchanges with another boy, 13, over Instagram on Thursday. Both were at home. No threats were directed toward any school.
Last school year, schools across the district contended with a dozen incidents, most of them leading to arrests, involving students making threats or bringing a weapon to school. But until Thursda in this fledgling school year, the gravest incident at a school involved the citation of a 14-year-old girl at FPC over a vaping pen containing marijuana oil. The student had allegedly been vaping in a school bathroom. In her case, a civil citation was issued.
Thursday’s incident again prompted the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to issue an advisory to parents to “become more involved in what their children are doing online.” The agency issued a chart of 23 apps “parents should know about.” (See below.)
The mother of the 13-year-old at the receiving end of the alleged threats contacted law enforcement after she heard parts of the conversation between her son and the 14 year old, as her son had it on speaker phone. She was also able to capture some of the texts before her son blocked the other boy.
The parent reported hearing the alleged assailant tell her son that he was going to beat him up because of his looks, and kill him. His messages included texts such as “U dying tmr,” “For sure” and “I’m done talking from this point on… Just know ur gonna die tomorrow.” The boy at the receiving end tried reason: “I could understand you wanting to fight me but,” he wrote in one text, continuing in another, “Why kill me… That’s a little far.” The 14 year old also had an exchange with a friend of the 13 year old, telling him: “Tell him to be prepared to be hospitalized tomorrow…” “Chill no your not,” the friend wrote him, apparently to no effect.
Deputies investigated based on the screen names and the screen shots the parent emailed them and located the 14 year old at an R-Section address in Palm Coast. The boy’s parents invited deputies into the house and both parents and the child spoke with deputies in the kitchen.
The boy, according to his arrest report, immediately told the deputies he knew why they were there, and said it had to do with an argument he got into on Instagram. He confirmed that his Instagram name was the one in deputies’ hands, and said he had gotten into an argument because he has a short temper, but initially denied making threats to kill. When confronted with images of the messages, the boy conceded that he’d written them, “but it was out of anger,” he told deputies.
The boy was placed under arrest, processed at the Flagler County jail, turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice in Daytona Beach, which then turned the boy over to his parents.
“We take all threats seriously and if you make a threat – whether verbally, in writing, or through social media – it will be investigated and you will be arrested,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release that echoed similar statements repeated last year. “Cell phones and social media are a part of every child’s life these days and it is more important than ever for parents to pay attention to what their children are doing online. Let them know that if they make the wrong choice, say, write or post threats, they will face serious consequences. Florida law is very strict and there is no discretion for law enforcement. We have a zero tolerance policy for threats in Flagler County.”
In effect, Thursday’s incident came to light because a parent was monitoring a child’s actions on social media.
The agency release suggested a few control applications such as Bark, Net Nanny, and Securly, available on both Android and Apple devices.