The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday filed charges of aggravated assault and the reckless display of a weapon, both felonies, against a 12-year-old Palm Coast girl who attends Rymfire Elementary school following an incident at a bus stop where the girl is accused of pulling a 12-inch knife and threatening a 10-year-old boy with it. Both the boy and the girl accused the other of teasing over a period of time leading up to Tuesday’s alleged incident.
The girl’s parents were startled by the alleged incident, and when the father saw the size of the knife in question, he spontaneously exclaimed, “That’s a sword.”
The girl was not arrested, though she was read her Miranda rights and was detained for a period at the school, and the knife was entered into evidence. The charges were filed with the State Attorney’s Office, which will decide whether to formalize them, reduce them or drop them. The girl was not allowed back in class. The district has a zero-tolerance policy against the carrying, displaying, and of course the use of any weapons, which generally results in suspension or expulsion. But the age of the alleged suspect may weigh in the district’s decision on how to proceed.
Sgt. Don Apperson, the school resource deputy who investigated the case, “strongly suggested that prior to allowing [the girl] to attend any school within the school district, [school officials] should order a safety and threat assessment.” Rymfire Elementary Principal Paula St. Francis and Assistant Principal Timothy King, who were also involved in the investigation, agreed.
According to Apperson’s incident report, the alleged incident unfolded at a bus stop during Tuesday’s morning run. He had been told about a student bringing a knife to school. But Francis told him that “this was much more than originally reported as the bus driver and students were saying that the suspect actually pulled the knife out of her book bag and threatened to slash another student with it.”
King had both the suspect and the victim in his office when St. Francis and Apperson arrived. Apperson saw the alleged assailant sitting in front of the assistant principal’s desk, visibly upset, her face red and puffy from crying. King and St. Francis had already confronted the girl earlier, when the bus first rolled in with her on board. King and Francis, according to Apperson’s report, had taken custody of the girl and her bookbag “and escorted her to a private location to speak with her.” The girl denied bringing anything forbidden to school and said she did not want her bookbag searched.
She herself removed items from the bag. While the knife was immediately visible to King and St. Francis, the girl, according to the report, did not take it out of the bag. When the administrators questioned her about how the knife, she claimed she did not know how it had gotten into her bookbag, and that she’d never threatened anyone with it. When King showed the bookbag and the knife to Apperson, “it was obvious this met the statutory requirements as a weapon.”
At that point, Apperson asked King to call the girl’s parents. From the evidence of the report, the parents had not been called until then. Underage students accused of lawbreaking, and usually unaware of their rights, are liberally questioned neither with permission nor in the presence of parents, guardians or lawyers, though school administrators and faculty are not under the same legal strictures as police when questioning students, and often resolve issues before the involvement of parents (or police).
Speaking to the girl’s mother, Apperson explained what had been reported to him by the administrator, that her daughter was a suspect in a felony investigation, and that he would be reading the girl her Miranda rights before questioning her. Apperson asked the child’s mother if she wanted to be present before he proceeded. The mother did.
Meanwhile, Apperson spoke with the victim, who accused the girl of picking on him every day at the bus stop. “She tells him he has a big head and other mean things,” the report states. The boy is black. The girl is white. “He told his mother but no one else. His mother has told him to just ignore her and let it go. He said today for some reason she pulled out the knife and told him she was going to ‘stab him with it.'” Apperson asked the boy if he was afraid she was going to do it. The boy said he was, and provided a written statement. Apperson also spoke with the boy’s mother, whose chief concern was was the interaction of the two students moving forward. (That’s a determination by the district, pending the outcome of the criminal case.)
When the girl’s parents arrived, they were taken to the office where the girl was being detained. “They were both, by their reaction, facial expressions and verbal admissions,” Apperson reported, “caught off guard at the sight of the knife. They both thought when it was described as a kitchen knife they were thinking a steak knife.” That’s when the father made the remark, comparing the knife to a sword. It was also at that point–at 9:53 a.m.–that the child was read her Miranda rights, which her parents waived, enabling her to speak to Apperson without the presence of a lawyer, though her parents remained present.
That segment of the report is heavily redacted–the Sheriff’s Office may legally redact any statements that are or may be interpreted as a suspect’s admission of guilt–but the report also notes that when asked why the girl had acted as she did with the boy, “she would only offer that he picks on her every day at the bus stop, however, she has never reported it to an adult or school official.”
The charging affidavit reports that “other students reported” the incident to the bus driver, but neither the charging affidavit nor the incident report reflect interviews with students on the bus or at the bus stop other than the alleged suspect and victim.
Nancy N. says
Let me get this straight…a bus driver, hearing that one student had threatened another with a large knife, just lets both students on the bus and then continues his route? Is he crazy or an idiot? Even if he confiscated the book bag, how did he know that one or both of the students didn’t have a weapon on their person? How did he know that the altercation would not continue and escalate on the bus? Answer: He (or his superiors in the transportation dept if consulted) couldn’t possibly have known the answers to those questions, and thus created an extremely dangerous situation for the bus’s other riders.
And if any Flagler Schools SRO ever asks even one question of my child without me present…the district will be hearing from my lawyer. Perhaps the school staff needs to take their own government classes since they seem to have forgotten a few things about the Constitution and our legal rights as parents of their students. Miranda, and the right of minors to be protected by a parent during interrogation, doesn’t just start whenever you feel like applying it. Horse, barn door…Miranda doesn’t work that way.
You’d scream bloody murder if police tried to question you about a crime without reading you your rights but apparently you think it’s ok to do so to kids?
Tampa Native says
[Note: the comment below was slightly edited to eliminate Tampa Native’s hectoring asides directed at Nancy N. If you have valid and thoughtful points to make, as Tampa Native clearly does, please make them without lacing them with unnecessary hectoring of commenters you’re responding to, and keep your comments to the issue. Otherwise your comment will either not appear or will be delayed, wasting our time with editing that should be your task, not ours. That said, Tampa Native’s comments are just the sort we prize for enriching the conversation and providing necessary perspective, with arguments backed up by reliable evidence. Thanks.–FL]
The article does not say whether the bus driver knew about the knife at the point the students boarded. Maybe he/she did not receive that information until students got off and then they promptly told the school administration.
In the Supreme Court Case New Jersey v. T.L.O (1985) the court decided the following: Schoolchildren have legitimate expectations of privacy. They may find it necessary to carry with them a variety of legitimate, noncontraband items, and there is no reason to conclude that they have necessarily waived all rights to privacy in such items by bringing them onto school grounds. But striking the balance between schoolchildren’s legitimate expectations of privacy and the school’s equally legitimate need to maintain an environment in which learning can take place requires some easing of the restrictions to which searches by public authorities are ordinarily subject. Thus, school officials need not obtain a warrant before searching a student who is under their authority. Moreover, school officials need not be held subject to the requirement that searches be based on probable cause to believe that the subject of the search has violated or is violating the law. Rather, the legality of a search of a student should depend simply on the reasonableness, under all the circumstances, of the search. Determining the reasonableness of any search involves a determination of whether the search was justified at its inception and whether, as conducted, it was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances that justified the interference in the first place. Under ordinary circumstances, the search of a student by a school official will be justified at its inception where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting that the search will turn up evidence that the student has violated or is violating either the law or the rules of the school. And such a search will be permissible in its scope when the measures adopted are reasonably related to the objectives of the search, and not excessively intrusive in light of the student’s age and sex and the nature of the infraction. Pp. 337-343.
In this case the knife was visible and the school had reasonable suspicion to search her back pack. The school also has the right to question the student without the parents present in the interest of school safety. The SRO arrived he took over, he did not question the girl until the parents were present and read the Miranda Rights to which the girls parents waived.
Inform your child of their rights of not having to answer questions regarding a criminal matter to police without being read their Miranda Rights and you being informed that they want to be questioned. Students do not shed all of their rights at the classroom gate as the Courts found in Tinker v. Des Moines, however schools have a little more leeway if the actions of students. Police do not. Just keep that in mind.
Nancy N. says
I’m well aware of schools’ rights to search students and items on their property like lockers and backpacks. I never questioned the search of the backpack, only the questioning of the child. Unllike constitutional limitations against searches, Miranda is NOT limited just because a person is on school property.
I would love to inform my child of her rights but she is 10 years old autistic and would never understand them. Even if she WEREN’T autistic, how many 10 year old kids (or 12 year olds), confronted by the authority of a badge, are going to have the presence of mind to stand up for themselves and invoke those rights? Many full-grown adults crumble in situations like that. That’s why kids are entitled to have an adult representative, so someone can stand up for them!
Tampa Native says
There are things that you can do to make sure you are called to the office if your child gets in trouble. You can put a stipulation in their file that you want to be contacted about the questioning of your child by a school administrator before it happens. Miranda warnings are not limited just because they are on school property, but school officials do have more leeway in their questioning of students than do the police. The sheriffs deputy in this case followed the letter of the law as well did the school administrators, as far as I can tell from the report. He used eyewitness accounts, and statements to make his determination of what to do in the case and proceeded correctly.
I agree that most students respect the police and want to be cooperative with them. However, I do not feel that they would crumble in the face of them either.
Dear God, I hope both sets of parents get the help they need. It sounds like they are going to need a lot of support..
This is terribly sad. This girl needs a psychological assessment.
In cases like this, neither of these children should be questioned without the presence of their parents and or legal representation.
just saying says
that depends on who does the questioning and if leo directs them to.
Lives in Palm Coast says
OMG, this is insane what children do now. I blame tv, movies and video games.
This is why as parents we need to limit what they watch and play.
Bullying has gotten so bad! I was bullied myself and I have to say it was the worst. I hated going to school and tried every way possible to stay home. It has a lasting effect on children that goes all the way to adulthood.
Parents please talk to your children about bulling and lets pledge to stop it in all our schools.
I thank God no one got hurt. This girl should get a lot more than a slap on the wrist, teaching her its NOT ok to do what she did and not to do it ever again. Also all students should know her consequences so maybe they will think twice before doing something like this themselves.
The bus driver should have pulled that bus over IMMEDIATELY and called for a sheriff’s squad. This could have turned into something really ugly on the bus.
you do know the title of this article says “Bus Stop” not on the bus. JS
I think it is time for an overall comprehensive discussion in the school district about safety on campus and the busses. This may be the catalyst for that discussion.
Seminole Pride says
A sure case of Bullying and Racism. This girl needs counseling.
Frank Zedar says
Every time there is a conflict between two people… and one is a different color than the other… it is not automatically racism.
That’s common sense. Which sadly is in short supply in those enjoying absolute immunity for lacking such. Read: government employees that can not be fired by the people that supervise them or the public they obstinately serve.
Palm Coast needs to look at their news and figure out how to fix their community!
Glad I left Palm Coast says
Hey wow, Palm Coast is not going to do a thing, just continue to increase section 8 housing bringing more low lifes and tax burdens. No high paying jobs, just low paying fast food jobs, and they continue to increase water rates and tax rates! Palm Coast city gov, is living on fantasy island and waiting for “Da Plane” I am sure the 10 year old boy is no angel either. he will be a punk teen in a few years because that is the pattern.
You’re right, Frank. It sounds like the girl had become so desperate from being bullied that she felt there was no other choice. This is what happens when the bully and the victim are viewed with equal footing. I am not saying that it is the right solution, but until the school stops the “bully neutrality” policy, this will happen more and more.
I hope both sets of parents get as much help as their children.
I’ve actually stayed the night at this girl’s house. I’m good friend’s with her older sister. It doesn’t surprise me she did this, but I know she’s not racist and that she would not actually do it. I was told by her older sister that she was writing what is called a “creepypasta”. Creepypastas are basically horror stories. I was told they had found the story in her backpack and thought she was planning to kill the 10-year-old boy. I agree is was completely wrong to bring a large kitchen knife to her school to threaten a boy at her bus stop. In fact I believe it was dumb of her. If I was that boy, I would have grabbed my cell phone and called 911, or immediately tell the bus driver what happened and asked to seat as far away from her as I could. She thought it was a joke and ‘funny’ to bring the knife and scare the kid, she wouldn’t really go and stab him.
This isn’t something about racism. This is just this girl happens to be strange, and thought it would be humorous to pull a knife out and scare someone.
@Hoodie says–If you are correct in what you are saying, this girl really needs some help. I hope this will be the wake-up call that her family and the school needs to make sure that she gets it. “Creepypasta”–That’s a new one on me!