Randall Bertrand is the parent of a student at Flagler Palm Coast High School who took a leading role in the effort in 2020 and 2021 to include gender identity among the district’s protected rights. He was briefly a candidate for a school board seat before opting not to run. He sent the following letter to Flagler Palm Coast High School Principal Greg Schwartz this afternoon, as the fallout from today’s student walkouts at FPC and Matanzas High School was spreading across the community: Schwartz had suspended Jack Petocz, the student who organized today’s walkout, after he refused to stop distributing pride flags, which many students waved at the protest. Only he was suspended, pending the outcome of an investigation, when the suspension may either be ratified and an official penalty of one to three days imposed, or rescinded.
Dear Mr. Schwartz,
I know your e-mail inbox is probably swamped but I wanted to take a few moments and offer a few points to consider. The time to put the proverbial “pin back in the grenade” has passed. You did the right thing by allowing the walk-out to occur but consider the optics on your actions in the coming days. If a calm environment in your school is what you desire, then perhaps some humility on the part of the FPC administration is in order.
1. I recommend you attempt to diffuse any tense situations that arise or are arising from the walk-out. Perhaps a meeting with Jack Petocz and other members of the FPC [Gay Straight Alliance] to discuss how FPC could become more accommodating to LGBTQ+ youth within the constraints of any potential new legislation. If the legislation is enacted, it could go a long way to maintaining calm on campus if plans were already in place to address concerns these students may have.
2. Heavy handed discipline to any individuals involved (For or Against the walk-out) is unlikely to deliver a positive result. Yes, the school has rules that need to be followed, but I want you to also consider the groundswell of negative blowback that will result from any attempts to make an example out of students. You want students in class and that’s where they belong. Imagine how it will be perceived when a leader of a student-led protest is potentially suspended. I’m not telling you how to do your job but consider how much harder your job will be if the hammer is dropped down on these kids. How will kids view this? How will the community as a whole?
3. In the very recent past, a school in St. John’s County tried to ban Pride flags on campus. That didn’t work too well and was not received well in the media. I recommend you don’t try the same path. It’s likely to escalate the situation.
As always, this is your school and your show. Take from this message what you want and leave what you don’t.
Have a great day,
Randall Bertrand is a Palm Coast resident. See his previous articles: “Stop Yelling. Have a Point: Advice for School Board Meeting Disrupters from Someone Who’s Been There,” and “The Fabricated Fear of Transgender Athletes in High School Sports.”