The arrest of a 15-year-old student at Buddy Taylor Middle School Thursday is the year’s first instance of a student allegedly threatening an attack on fellow students, faculty–and herself.
The student was Baker Acted and charged with a misdemeanor and a second-degree felony, though the Baker Act proceedings had already been invoked when she began making threats against the school, as the girl was making grave threats against her own life. That which could invalidate the criminal charge: A Baker Act, whereby law enforcement has the authority to seize an individual for psychiatric evaluation if the individual is threatening harm against self or others, implies that the person is not in full control of her faculties.
The school district over the last few years has been working successfully to diminish the number of Baker Acts from school grounds–and to earnestly and aggressively counsel suicidal students. But this situation escalated beyond the faculty’s control, authorities said, requiring the intervention of a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy on only the fifth day of his assignment as a school resource officer.
A deputy’s intervention is “a case-by-case decision,” Sheriff Rick Staly said. “The teacher tried to handle it in her classroom and the student started–my understanding–arguing and yelling, and I think where the line got crossed was two areas: she started throwing chairs and tables around in the classroom where she could have hurt other students, so the deputy got called up to the classroom at this point because now it’s turning into a violent encounter. Then when he gets there, at some point during that interaction, she started threatening to hurt herself, which required the Baker Act, and when she was still interacting with my deputy is when she started making all the threats to shoot up the school and the deputy and the teacher. You just can’t do that today. You might be angry and acting out, but you cannot threaten to harm a school, and if you do, you’re going to get arrested and charged.”
Staly was going on information that had been reported to him, and written in a release about the incident. There is no mention in the charging affidavit of what the release refers to as “flipping chairs and throwing desks in the classroom,” however. That took place later, away from students, according to the report.
According to the charging affidavit forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office, the 15-year-old Buddy Taylor student had come to first-period class late after Assistant Principal Jean Stahl had asked her to change her shirt that was not compliant with the dress code. Stahl gave her a collared shirt. But after going to the bathroom, the girl went to class still wearing the shirt she’d been asked to replace. She was in Tina Martin’s reading class. Martin asked the girl to go back to the bathroom and change. The girl refused, telling Martin “that she was going to harm herself by stabbing herself,” according to the report, “that there was no reason for her to be alive, and that she would lock herself in the bathroom and die.”
All the statements, the report notes, were made in the classroom “full of students.” The district refused to disclose the number of students in her class at the time of the incident, saying it was still investigating–though the number of students exposed to the incident is not germane to the investigation.
Martin called the dean’s office a little after 8 to report the disruption in Building 9. Tara Millette, the dean, went to the classroom, but the student pre-empted her, saying she wasn’t going to leave. The student went into the restroom attached to the classroom and said she might as well slit her wrists. As Millette tried to clear the classroom, the student got up and tried to leave with them. At 8:13, deputy Cory Petty entered the room. (The Sheriff’s Office hired Petty in May 2017 and recently reassigned him to the school as part of the enlarged corps of school deputies.) He cleared the rest of the classroom and tried to deescalate the situation.
He did, to the extent that he was able to escort the girl to Millette’s office. There, the report states, the girl “began kicking over the chairs,” and was handcuffed, taken to the deputy’s office, and continued to be disruptive. That part of the report is censored, suggesting that it’s at that point that, according to the release, the girl “threatened to shoot up the school.”
The girl was Baker Acted and transported to Halifax Behavioral Services in Daytona Beach. The school administration, the report states, began proceedings to remove the student from school. No one was injured.
“It shows the importance of assigning experienced deputy sheriffs to the schools and the training that we provide,” Staly said of Petty, “and provide it for school resource deputies for their new assignments. He did an outstanding job controlling the situation and not letting it escalate.”
Any suspicious activity in schools should be reported to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office immediately by calling 9-1-1 for an emergency or 386-313-4911 for a non-emergency. Tips can be submitted through Crime Stoppers at 1-888-277-TIPS (8477) or by emailing [email protected].