Last Updated: 1:36 p.m.
Two 16-year-old students who exchanged a string of online, racist threats about their language arts teacher during class on Monday face misdemeanor assault charges with a possible enhancement under Florida’s hate-crime law.
Their teacher, Kimberley Lee, decided to pursue the charges on Tuesday after she told Flagler County Sheriff’s detectives that she thought the students were capable of harming her, and had a well-founded fear that they would after she read what they’d written.
Lee is black. The two students are white. The two students’ chats were conducted in a joking manner, the students told investigators, but the “jokes” referred to their teacher in the most derogatory, racially inflammatory terms, planning her murder and reveling in the claim that it wouldn’t really be murder because they’d be doing “an amazing thing,” that they’d get “a medal” for killing a black person, and that “n— don’t have rights.” (See the fuller, uncensored exchange here, and the complete transcript of their chat here.)
Lee said she was “petrified” by the substance of the two students’ chat about her, once she was able to read the transcript, to the point of having her husband leave work immediately. The couple then bought a gun, worried about their safety, and “she expressed a concern about returning to school,” according to her account in the two students’ arrest report. She said that one of the students was “absolutely” capable of harming her.
At 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, around the time the two students had “jokingly” set to murder her, Lee woke up in fear that the students would actually show up at her property.
The Sheriff’s Office today released the fuller transcript of the two students’ chat, conducted between one student who was in Lee’s class and the other who was in a different class. It is significantly more extensive than the excerpts previously disclosed, the violent racism and relentlessly bigoted humor laced in language reminiscent of the casual dehumanization of blacks at lynchings. The students maintained that they were only joking.
“Of course the students said they were joking, but in this time in our country we don’t joke about these things, at school or anywhere else,” Steve Brandt, Chief of Investigative Services, said this morning.
The sheriff’s office investigated the case when the exchange was first uncovered Monday and concluded that it would file charges. But publication of the exchange triggered further reactions, including disbelief from Flagler County NAACP Branch President Linda Sharpe-Matthews that the matter would be dropped without criminal charges.
Speaking with reporters Wednesday morning, Brandt said the difference between the Sheriff’s Office’s reaction Monday, when it concluded that there would be no charges “at this time,” as opposed to today, was the teacher’s decision to pursue charges. “Upon investigating it initially with the school resource deputy,” he said, “the action did not fit the statutory requirement of a felony at that time. Tuesday the detectives were following up on the case, they interviewed the victim,” following which simple assault charges were filed, “with an enhancement for a race crime because of the racially motivated context of the messages.”
Monday’s incident report specifies that two detectives were involved and interviewed both students that day.
Brandt flatly rejected Matthews’s claim that the sheriff’s office had been slow to move toward charges because the students involved are white. Matthews had said the day before that had the two students been black, they would have been walked out of the school in handcuff in the same circumstances. “That has absolutely no bearing,” Brandt said, on how the investigation was conducted.
“Just so you understand, too,” Brandt continued, “reading the text messages and the detectives and the school resource deputy involved, deputies involved, it bothers them, because it’s disgusting, you know, but we have to follow the law, so that’s what we do.”
The students themselves have been removed from campus and are not expected back, as the school is recommending that they be expelled and placed in a home-based instructional program for the rest of the year. The school is also recommending against taking back the students come next year. Brandt today said he was unaware of the students’ parents involvement in the case, or of their reaction. Brandt said the students don’t appear to have a history of disciplinary issues at school.
The Sheriff’s Office announced the charges this morning. The charges have been forwarded to the State Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to formally file them. “Based on the completed investigation, [sheriff’s] detectives determined that the two students made intentional and unlawful threats to harm Mrs. Lee and in doing so created a well-founded fear that such violence was possible,” the Sheriff’s Office said in a release. “Charges were forwarded to the 7th Circuit State Attorney’s Office on Wednesday morning for the charge of Assault with an enhancement as a Hate Crime under Florida law for both students.”
“More serious felony charges were explored but the facts of this case did not meet the required elements for a felony charge,” said Chief Steve Brandt, Chief of Investigative Services. “Because this is a misdemeanor and is not an immediate arrest exception under Florida law, a physical arrest cannot be made so our only option was to file recommended charges with the State Attorney’s Office.” Brandt was holding a press conference about the case in late morning.
“I was appalled at the language these students were using and the threats made toward this teacher,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in the release. “These racial tones have no place in our community. The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office has a zero tolerance policy on school threats. All threats will be taken seriously and thoroughly investigated and appropriate charges will be made, but often these situations take time to investigate and review the evidence before determining a charge or making an arrest. It is not acceptable to claim you were ‘joking around’ when caught or to threaten anyone.”
Only me says
This is absolutely horrible to do to a teacher. I hope the school is expelling them for making such comments about their teacher. Their parents need to also discipline them for doing something like this. If, it were my child they would be punished for a very long time. I am glad the teacher is pursuing the charges.
Good for you Ms. Lee. Obviously they aren’t getting the proper life lessons at home so it’s up to you as their teacher to show them right from wrong. Whether they “get it” after this is all over will be up to them. Or will we see their names in print again sometime in the future?
I am so glad the teacher decided to press charges. I hope these students learn from the consequences of their actions, and that people everywhere see just how terrible racist thoughts, attitudes, and words really are. I can’t imagine the fear, sadness, anger, and frustration Ms. Lee is feeling, and I sincerely hope she is able to surround herself with family and friends who support her.
These punks belong in reform school.
Kudos to the teacher for pursuing charges be filed and to the Sheriff’s office for at least forwarding charges to the State Attorney’s office as I am sure it was easier to let the SA’s office deal with it than the public shame the agency would receive from myself included.
However, I am sure there won’t be charges as an assault charge would be appropriate had the students directed the hateful comments towards Mrs. Lee directly and instead they chatted about it. I am disgusted that these “kids” would say such hateful things and I am sure it won’t be long until their racist antics gets them in trouble. Shame on YOU you disgusting parents of such vile kids as I am sure you have influenced such attitudes and are following these threads closely.
What happened to “white privilege”?
Jane Gentile-Youd says
And where are the parents? Have not seen or heard who they are. Something is missing in both homes or are the parents enablers? Thank you Linda for making sure this is a big deal in our community. My Goddaughter is black and coming from NYC I cannot believe that we are still almost a century behind down here in Floriduh…..
Poor teacher – my heart goes out to her and her family. Kids need to have their mouths washed in soap and a year of community service required for starters together with their apparently complacent or enabler parents.
Josh Davis says
Read- there were no criminal charges filed until it created a media storm. Any criminal attorney worth their salt will have these charges dropped. There’s not even a prima facie case for the State to proceed. Cowboy Rick and company passing the buck so the State Attorney has to be the bad guy.
Bravo to Mrs. Lee. And I would hope she does NOT let up. Get these little arse holes OUT of the school system PERMANENTLY. Time to send a LOUD and CLEAR message. Yo the parents of these little racist miscreants YOU FAILED. This effluent needs to stop, and will NOT be tolerated. And I hope no one finds my language alarming or offending, but ENOUGH already. And if you say they are only doing it because a President did this ir that, YOU are simply making excuses for them, and there has been ENOUGH excuse making, and when you say that as an adult, you only make these idiots think it is okay.
Concerned Citizen says
I am glad Ms. lee is pursuing charges. She deserves to have a safe environment to work in. Free from harassment, threats, and discrimination.
I hope that the Sheriff’s Office and School Board do the right thing and support her. I also hope that our legal system does the right thing. Sentence appropriately and don’t cut any breaks.
Now I’d like to hear an explanation from the Sheriff as to why his agency didn’t take this serious in the first place. And also what the Principal and School board intend to do to gain control of their schools back.
Two incidents in less than a week seems to indicate a lack of security and discipline.
Michael Cocchiola says
The only way for these budding racists to understand how their beliefs cause pain is to suffer equally the consequences of their actions. Maybe we can’t control what they believe, but we can at least make them think twice before acting on those beliefs. We need to make a strong statement here.
Concerned Citizen says
@ Josh Davis
So you are condoning their behavior then?
Good decision Mrs Lee pressing charges! Racism should have no room in our schools!
Good for her–This teacher is actually doing something to help change these students for the better before it is too late, which is more than the other adults in their lives seem willing or able to do.
It truly amazes me. All the ignorance here. The kids ignorance for their actions. Whats scarier is the ignorant comments posted by apparently IGNORANT PEOPLE. No CRIME has occured! A conversation between two people occured. This private joke was invaded by a SPYING SNOOPING SQUIRREL . The private conversation/joke was then shared. This private conversation then OFFENDED someone. It then spread like a virus offending the masses. FEAR!!!
The best out come of this…is for PEOPLE TO MIND THEIR OWN BUSINESS!!!
What a joke
WHAT HAPPENED TO FREE SPEECH?!
Just curious….if the students involved were black, and the teacher white, would the issue of a hate crime even be in the conversation?
Threatening to kill someone doesn’t qualify as free speech. Wow.
Free speech …actually looks more like Hate speech and also life threatening!
FPC Granny says
The “private” messaging the kids did…was NOT meant for “public” consumption!! I have heard several black teenagers call their black friends the N word….no one seems to have a problem with that. I am by no means condoning what was said!! But this is like the school reading your diary when you were a kid. Many adults wrote in their diaries about the dislike for a teacher. I still believe this is an invasion of privacy whether the school is somehow able to monitor/invade “private” chats or they are using Social Sentinal as their resource.
It is not snooping when it is a school computer.
FPC Granny, It was SCHOOL issued computers so, not only are they racists, they are not too bright, which usually goes hand in hand. And these kids were warned after last year that their computers would be monitored. And for the record, there is absolutely ZERO done via the internet, that is private. If you think there is, you’ve been mislead.
Concerned Citizen says
1.) Yes there is freedom of speech. It does not absolve you of consequences. People seriously need to get that thru their heads.
3.) When you use an institutional computer system you agree to the rules. And that might include monitoring. They broke the rules and got caught.
4.) Threatening violence or murder is not a joke. It’s not humorous and yes it is a criminal act. It’s not about being offended. These 2 immature high school students were old enough to know better and now they have to pay the price.
I choose to feel sorry for the teacher. Not the students. The students need to be disciplined and held legally liable for their actions.
Let’s not forget the teacher is the victim here and was just trying to do her job educating OUR youth. She deserves our support. Not the other way around.
Stop victim blaming.
Wow. The world we live in is a different place than just a short time ago. It’s amazing to see how emboldened these types have become, given modern society’s politi-fueled, culturally divisive attitudes. Make an example of these “children.” When you go to school, You WILL respect your teacher. Like it or not. Parents should take note. Quit letting your spoiled rotten children decide what is and isn’t in the world of education and discipline. It’s time the administration and board get archaic, possibly even.. medieval on these kids’ a**es. *STUDENTS, Your FREE education is a PRIVILEGE, not a pastime. *PARENTS, your children are being educated, not babysat, or entertained. GET IT RIGHT. You don’t get to have it your way. You aren’t customers. You are beneficiaries of a system built to make your kid not suck. Fix your attitudes, Everyone.
Well as bad as there actions are I find it amazing how two dumb a$$ kids venting about a teacher in an awful way,which ,most all have done. Can possibly affect the rest of thier lives. Actions should be taken but to the point where there education’s are at risk? That’s a little to far I read people saying how stupid they were! So let’s take away there education. Well that sounds even more ignorant. Say there racist! let’s take away there learning environment ! I make no excuses for their actions and they were absolutely wrong In there remarks. But if you truly believe that they are the next Manson! I think educating them would make more sense. People want to always dispose of an issue, instead of resolving it, this is a problem that needs to be resolved. so much fear over this,so much hate, And all that our EDUCATOR’S can come up with is to throw them away! Now that’s ignorant. Kids need to be shown the right path. Giving up on a child who shows hate.only produces more hate. Then comes the question when something more hateful comes to pass. How could we have prevented this terrible action? And you all know what I am referring to.
Well by this text it’s obvious that the education system has failed miserably. That aside I think you were essentially saying that if these kids were educated they probably wouldn’t be racist. Education isn’t the problem because then all you would have is educated racists with murderous intentions. As to how to prevent racism it shouldn’t be asked about by those here. Racism is generally taught or people grow up with stereotypes that are typically negative. It’s up to the individual person to either go along or question what they believe is right or not. personal responsibility is the issue
Alex you have a valid point EXCEPT, nearly every school shooter has had things just like this very thing in their history and nothing was done, Then after a horrible incident, people say, “why wasn’t
‘t something done”. Yet when something is done, we have people, not unlike yourself who say, “Why ruin the kids life”. That time is past, it is now time for actions and Consequences. And for the record. I don’t know where or when you went to school, but I certainly never made comments such as these in high school, and I went to some pretty rough schools. These actions are not acceptable under any circumstances.
How did we come to this? Both my husband and I are Flagler teachers. Well, I got out! He’s still in and I can honestly say that I find myself fearing for his safety more and more these days. I never thought the day would come again, where I would find myself praying that he come home safely at the end of the day as I kiss him goodbye in the morning as he goes to school to TEACH, like I did years ago when he was active duty Army!!
THREE dangerous school incidents in small Flagler County Schools this week alone!! Our Sheriff was not even going to press charges initially until the media got wind, The School Board is even worse… with the McDonalds and ethics charges!!! I can tell you from personal experience,, it’s been like this in our schools for a while and teachers have had to put up with the kids alone and finally… you all are seeing this atrocious behavior!!! The disrespect teachers get from most students is rampant and the lack of support from most administration is equal. Please note I do say “most”. I’ll end with saying BRAVO to my friend Mrs. Lee! She is a lovely lady and a wonderful teacher that does NOT deserve that disrespect. ( I only wish I too had filled charges against some of the thuggish behavior I endured). Maybe that’s the answer Teachers?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!