Three to five students were suspended following Thursday’s twin walk-out and demonstrations at Flagler Palm Coast High School and Matanzas High School in protest of a proposed bill that would outlaw certain discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in lower grades. The students were all given school-level suspensions of one to three days, School Board Attorney Kristy Gavin said today.
At least one student involved in a fight over a Trump flag that was deployed during the FPC suspension is among those who were suspended. The flag appears to have been deployed as a provocation of the students demonstrating, and was accompanied by taunts against the students, who were repeatedly called “faggots.”
Most of the attention focused on Thursday on the suspension of Jack Petocz, the FPC junior who organized the walkout there and at schools across the state. Gavin said the student code of conduct forbids the display of flags–any flag but the Stars and Stripes–and that violation of the policy would incur discipline. Petocz said he’d brought some 150 small pride flags, the rainbow flags that symbolizes gay or LGBTQ pride, distributed them, and told students to ignore calls from faculty to put them away. Petocz was able to lead the walk-out and make a brief speech at the FPC track, where he and school principal Greg Schwartz had agreed that the demonstration would take place, then returned to class after 12 minutes. (He said he was cheated of three minutes’ worth, as the principal had agreed to 15 minutes.)
Within hours, he revealed that he’d been suspended. By mid-afternoon Monday, however, Petocz had not been informed of his suspension status. “As of now, the district has relayed no more information to my family,” he said in a 4:15 p.m. text. (A few hours after this article published, he was informed that he could return to school Tuesday, meaning that he would have been suspended two days.)
Around the same time as Petocz’s suspension Thursday, brief video clips began circulating of a confrontation on the periphery of the FPC walkout between a girl and other students as students waved a Trump flag while calling demonstrators names, the girl grabbed the flag or sought to throw it to the ground, then was held in what she and others would later describe as a chokehold by another student, who denied having held her that way. None of those directly involved–the girl and the boy who either choke-held or grabbed her, nor their parents–sought to pursue charges, either for the chokehold or the grabbing of the Trump flag. The girl said that even as she was being influenced by others to pursue charges, she did not want to ruin the boy’s future, according to a Flagler County Sheriff’s incident report. Her guardians concurred.
One of the boys involved in the altercation had been standing with School Board member Janet McDonald, according to the sheriff’s report. McDonald went to FPC with her husband, Dennis McDonald, before the demonstration, even though the demonstration was strictly a student-led and student-focused event to which the administrations of either high schools prevented community members from attending. At least one teacher not associated with Matanzas High School was turned away from campus after seeking to observe the walkout there. It isn’t clear why Dennis McDonald, who has no business at FPC, was allowed on campus. After a complaint either by a staffer or a student there, he was asked to leave. Janet McDonald was not.
The incident report details how various students involved in the altercation over anti-gay provocations and the Trump flag unfolded, listing the 15-year-old alleged victim, the 16-year-old alleged assailant, and six witnesses, all of them 15 or 16, with one 17 year old.
A school resource deputy initially spoke with the student referred to as GF (also referred to as CF in other parts of the report), the girl who was allegedly assaulted. She described a group of students unfurling the Trump flag and yelling “faggot” repeatedly at her and others. She admitted to the deputy of grabbing the flag, only for a student referred to as DN to grab her from behind and begin to choke her, as she described it. “She advised she was scared she was going ‘to die,'” the report states. “She demonstrated to me the way he grabbed her by putting his arm around her neck area common to a choke hold. GF could not remember if she was able to talk or was yelling while this was occurring.” She said the chokehold lasted 10 seconds. But another student, DN, “threatened to punch her,” again putting her in fear for her safety. (On Friday in a shelter for youths in Volusia County, a Palm Coast student was the victim of an assault by another juvenile who repeatedly used the same slur. The assailant faces hate-crime charges.)
One of the videos that circulated was the one GF took. It includes sound bytes of her saying she was taking the flag, of others insulting her and telling her to give it back as both sides exchange insults. “Then you hear what is believed to be DN say ‘fucking faggot, I’ll punch you in the fucking face, you wanna fucking run it right now,’ then DN appears in the video in a fighting stance standing in front of GF,” the report states.
LL, another student at the demonstration, told the deputy she believed the students with the Trump Flag “were there just to upset everyone at the event,” and that while GF took the flag down, she did not take possession of it. LL confronted one of the students, and described GF as “shocked but not hurt” afterward. KS, the owner of the Trump flag, confirmed bringing it and being urged by his friends to take it out. He could not remember if it actually left his hands when the girl grabbed it.
The deputy compared the student’s video to school surveillance video, which had been pulled the same day for examination. “The flag is being held by multiple people that are exiting the track area with the large crowd,” the deputy reported. “The flag then disappears and you see DN’s arm go around GF’s neck/chest area. DN lets go of GF and starts to walk away when he turns around towards GF taking what appears to be a fighting stance while raising his right arm as if he was going to strike GF. He did not strike GF, then walks away from the location.”
One student who did not witness the initial altercation–either the grabbing of the flag or the chokehold–told the deputy that he saw the girl “spit” on DN, an act DN himself told deputies did not take place. (DN was among the students suspended.) DN told the deputy he’d gone to the demonstrations, and one of his friends had brought the Trump flag, which they began to walk with when the girl grabbed it. He admitted to grabbing the girl from behind, according to the report, but said he did not choke her, nor did he intend to hurt her (he said he was protecting his friends from her), and admitted to yelling slurs “too many times to count,” he is quoted as saying in the sheriff’s report. The student said he’d received numerous Instagram messages by students calling him names.
Deputies interviewed several other students, one of whom described being “pushed into the concession stand by three unknown students, however his mother wished for the school to handle this situation and not have law enforcement involved.”
A student by the initials JC, who was not sought out by the deputies, himself went to the deputy’s office, saying he wanted to file a report. He said he was standing with Janet McDonald. When a staffer told him he had to go back to class if he was not participating in the walk-out, he began to walk with the crowd, then saw the confrontation and what he described as a “fight” near the concession stand. He described an altercation involving administrators, but when the deputy asked the administrators about it, they did not want law enforcement involved.
Deirdre Rutledge says
A student said ‘he was standing with Janet McDonald?’
Why was she there, why was her husband? People who break the law should be held accountable. Apparently some people feel they are above the law. It seems that has been true, and it needs to stop.
The fact that a student would say he ‘stood’ with Janet MacDonald reflects that the opinion of one person on our school board has become more important than the actual issue, a symbol.
We’re so worried about the symbolism of a rainbow flag or a trump flag that they need to be banned, but it’s OK for an adult to blatantly symbolize a conservative ideology at a student rally?
Shouldn’t every member of the school board be more concerned about students than they are about themselves? That should be reflected in their actions if it’s true.
Laws are being passed in this state (and country) to take away the civil rights of all human beings, including the LGBTQ+ community. Rights that were fought for generations, and are now being stripped away.
I think it’s appropriate to have students speak to these issues at school, what a shame there was a confrontation that went with it.
Young people that stand up for justice should not have school members taking sides. I hope voters remember that in the coming future.
Michael Cocchiola says
The actions by the Flagler County school system to suppress students standing up for gay rights – human rights! – are shameful beyond belief.
Homophobic school board members Janet McDonald and Jill Woolbright worked their hateful magic to overturn what had been an agreed-upon and meaningful protest against our maniacal MAGA governor Ron DeSantis’ “Don’t Say Gay” legislation.
MAGA mindlessness may slow down the human rights train because these cruel haters hold political power in Florida. But they can’t stop Jack Petrocz and his fellow students from standing up for repressed groups of people in America. The MAGAs are on the wrong side of history and the human rights train will roll over them leaving deep tracks on their backs so we can all see their guilt.
I cannot wait for the day these wonderful young “freedom fighters” run this country. Only then will we be truly great again. Thank you FlaglerLive.com!
Nobody Owens says
I was there, I saw everything. None of the people who called us faggots and threatened us or assaulted us have faced consequences. Administration has blatantly taken their side and we no longer feel safe in our own school. These people went intending to anger us and when they elicited the reaction intended, they had the gaul to be shocked and cry wolf. Those of us who fought back were punished, meanwhile the ones going around shouting slurs and taking swings at us remained at school. The protest was meant to do good and give people hope, but these hatful people ruined it.
I went to high school in a hick town much like palm coast. Take it from me, You don’t have to fight these people, it’s a waste of time. Better to apply yourself to your studies and your practice and when you graduate take your talents and passion to some place you’ll be appreciated. This place does not deserve you. This is not the real world. It’s a make believe community for disaffected baby-boomers who have nothing but a modest retirement and resentment against those they blame for denying them their dreams. They hate anything that disturbs their delusion.
@ Clarion, Wow that was deep…
I think that’s what the State of FL legislation is all about, they want to eliminate anything that is a distraction to getting a K-12 education & doing exactly what getting an education and moving on in life is about.
As someone that does pay taxes & is expected to provide funding for the education thru that taxation, lottery play or whatever else funds Flagler County Schools, I don’t want to see Confederate flags, LGBTQ flags, BLM flags on school premises. Both sides need to organize their protest after school & on weekends, perhaps in the Town Center area where they have plenty of area in open fields & around the lake that everyone walks around for Christmas Lights every year. I don’t want to hear of violence on school premises simply because of the legal liability to Flagler County that would potentially increase taxes unnecessarily. And I certainly don’t want to fund any vandalism at the schools either. Anyone not at those schools getting their education needs to leave the school premises & protest elsewhere.
You glaringly omitted “Trump” and “Let’s Go Brandon” flags from your exclusion list, didn’t you?
Sorry to hear that children being beaten, assaulted, and put in chokeholds for being gay is impacting your precious tax dollars. Have a heart.
What a disgrace. Its painfully obvious what’s going on here. Flagler County should be ashamed of itself….
Richard Smith says
Merrill S Shapiro says
I think it’s all coming into focus. The students are focused, oriented and organized. The school administration, from Janet McDonald on down are chaotic, in disarray, shambles and reactionary. Any administration beyond the Stone Age would sit down with the demonstrating students and create a partnership so that everyone can move forward. Instead, the administration has become oppositional, hostile and angry. They should know better!
Escape from Flagler says
Every day there’s another reason to validate our decision to leave that godforsaken place. I’d rather shovel snow than be buried in the BS that is Flagler County.
Davis G says
Young children should not be exposed to homosexuality.
And what is wrong with voicing an opinion against homosexuality?
Homosexuals need to toughen up and deal with the fact not everyone will be tolerant with their choices.
Please educate yourself so you don’t sound so ignorant. Having a same sex orientation is NOT a choice! When you first started becoming attracted to the opposite sex, were you also attracted to those of the same sex and, by choice, somehow DECIDED to go with the opposite sex? I presume you had NO CHOICE, it was something ingrained in you to know you had an opposite sex attraction. Believe me when I say it is the same for those who are attracted to the same sex. I know because I am one of them. Even before I was a teen and interested in sex, I already knew I was attracted to the same sex, and I tried and tried to think about girls and wanted to be just like other boys for a very long time, but it was just impossible to change. It would be impossible for you or someone else who is attracted to the opposite sex to just flip a switch inside of you and convince yourself that you were attracted to the same sex, and that is exactly why LGBT people cannot change who they are, nor should they. We are created just the way God intended for each of us to be, and that should be, if nothing else, accepted by others. You being heterosexual does NOT in any way affect me, and I’m quite sure that me being gay in no way affects you or other heterosexuals, so stop pretending it does and MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS regarding who anyone else loves!
This is such a terrible outrage bait post. Put down Facebook, read a book, and get off the wrong side of history, bigot.
It seems many students were not taught the Golden Rule at home. ” Treat others the way you would want them to treat you.”
The use of the Trump flag was off base . Hope everyone in school and at home will learn RESPECT. Hope there will be lessons learned from the situation so that this will never happen again.
As the world turns. What a world we live in.
Just another chapter showing the dramatic ignorance and bigotry of Flagler County. I recall that from another article, no political flags were supposed to be displayed on campus, yet the person having the CHUMP flag went unpunished. Can these Administrative phonies be any more obvious of where their views side with? These kids will get older and will remember this experience, which will only hurt this county and city. They will dessert this area and go elsewhere to open minded communities. And as usual, Flagler will remain a dinosaur watching the world pass it by, and sadly, be contented in that fact.
Richard Smith says
Flagler County has become an embarrassment. Where are the hate crime charges for the students that used derogatory slurs aimed at others sexual identity. Something needs to be done in Flagler County , they are being dragged down by the lowest of humans to represent a hateful disgusting underside of humanity. Keep up the good trouble! Let’s start a go fund me for the Trump bashers and raise some money as a reward for t standing up for human rights!
Blessed and grateful says
Everyday, I am more and more blessed and grateful that my daughter attends a private school!!!. My older two sons attended public schools all through graduating, but those were different times. Public schools have turned into NOTHING more than a free for all approach over anything else. The safety, morals, respect and discipline are NOWHERE to be found. This school board is nothing more than a disaster waiting to happen. Thank God they have no say in anything to do with my child’s school!!
Seems like the ones that taunted and and unfurled a flag representing the Traiterous Presidency of the last “Administration” went looking for a fight during a peaceful protest. Should be a bit more punishment for that, expulsion.
C. J. says
There was only one reason the McDonalds were there.
Please folks, note the common denominators here, educate yourselves and vote for sane people not the loud mouths of the community…or there will be no community.
As a non LGBTQ person I was thinking about what it means to be LGBTQ… it was the Q that perplexed me a bit.
To me, the word/term always seemed to mean “oddness” in the sense of eccentricity… and really not necessarily in terms of how a person might express themselves sexually. Nor did it seem to be always used in a hostile way. In other words the term seemed to be used in a context where some people were Q and happened to be gay or LGBT… but then, not really. In all instances I’ve come to realize it’s a word which isn’t to be loosely applied. Ultimately it’s a label, a label of division. And since I’ve come to the conclusion that we’re all a little eccentric to someone, someplace… except of course to ourselves, to which we are always “normal.” Perhaps, we are all indeed just one label away from being Q.
Or perhaps the human race will come to realize we are all just that… human.
Where is the text of the bill these kids are supposedly protesting? The bill I read says absolutely nothing about high school students, it’s about children in kindergarten through the third grade.
Why would you leave this fact out of your story? Did I miss something? That seems a critical omission…
There is no omission. As reported here, “The bill provides parents the opportunity to sue if a school district withholds certain information from them about their child’s well-being or if their child is exposed to instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity deemed not “age-appropriate.” That could mean everything from the very early grades to high school.”
As far as those kids with the trump flag, all I can say is the that the garbage doesn’t fall far from the garbage truck.
G A says
According to the PCO, Retirement Living just rated Palm Coast, Fl the number one place on their list to retire. I think someone should let them know that we have some mighty big problems here, and this is NOT the number one place to retire! Certainly NOT the number one place to raise your kids in this school system where McDonald and Woolbright are on the school board. Nope. Time to pass the word folks, Tell the truth. Pass Palm Coast by…look elsewhere when you want to move to Florida.