Last Updated: 3:26 p.m.
It is no longer going to be acceptable, permissible or excusable for students to so much as joke about guns in school. The consequences for doing so will be severe, judging from officials’ reactions to recent such incidents in Flagler and Volusia counties (and indeed across the country), the latest taking place this morning at Matanzas High School and resulting in the arrest of a student on a felony charge.
At about 10 this morning, Matanzas High School Dean of Students Thomas Wooleyhan contacted John Landi, the school resource deputy assigned to Matanzas, and told him of an email he’d received about a student claiming he was going to shoot up the school.
Wooleyhan went to the student’s classroom and pulled out the student in question: Raul Hernandez, 14. Wooleyhan took the student to his office for an interview, asking him about the comments.
Hernandez was doing poorly on a math assignment, according to his arrest report. He was frustrated. He allegedly admitted to making the statement about shooting up the school, but said it had been a joke.
Just as using a toy gun in a robbery or an assault does not alter the fact that the assailant is charged the same way as if she or he were using an actual weapon, it does not matter whether the threat to shoot up or bomb a school is made in jest: it is taken at face value, and treated as such under the law: it’s a felony. That’s why Transportation Security Administration officers have no tolerance for wise-cracking travelers at security checkpoints and treat inflammatory jokes uttered there as if they are actual threats.
In his interview with the dean of students, Hernandez stressed that he was not being serious. The deputy read him his Miranda rights and placed him under arrest.
Asked if he had any access to guns at home, Hernandez said no.
The incident took place in Lillian Elliot’s classroom. The teacher said four students had heard Hernadez’s remark. All four students, ranging in age from 14 to 16, filled out written statements about hearing the comment, but all four also said that they knew Hernandez was kidding around.
“We have zero tolerance for this type of behavior and we will not allow it in our schools,” Sheriff Rick Staly was quoted as saying in a release on the incident issued early this afternoon. “We have a commitment to keeping our students and schools safe and we will continue to investigate all threats and file criminal charges when appropriate.” In an interview with FlaglerLive on Monday, Staly said every threat, whether in jest or not, is being investigated, at great cost to the Sheriff’s Office, and will continue to be investigated, suggesting that the severity of the consequences are also intended as a signal to all other students to be on guard against errant, threatening statements.
The incident and the way it was handled also reflects the degree to which schools and school officials are still on edge after the massacre in Parkland on Valentine’s Day that left 14 students and three adults dead at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
“We have made it clear to Sheriff Staly that we will not tolerate threats on or to our campuses,” Superintendent Jim Tager said in the same release (issued, ironically, as Tager was in a closed-door session with the Flagler County School Board to discuss security measures at schools.) “These are not joking matters and we stand with our law enforcement partners in ensuring all students, teachers, and staff can learn and work in a safe environment.”
Hernandez was booked at the Flagler County jail, then was ordered released to home detention with a first appearance hearing Wednesday in juvenile court in Daytona Beach.
Last week, deputies investigated a similar incident at Imagine School at Town Center, though it did not result in the arrest of the student. The student at Imagine is 11 and had threatened to shoot a teacher and a student, according to a sheriff’s incident report. The student had been building something with plastic hourglasses in class when the structure collapsed, and another student told him he was “insane” and “don’t shoot.” The students then started joking about who they’d shoot in school. The student was removed from school for the rest of the day.
Any suspicious activity 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]
Textbook definitions of terror state
These kids need to learn the difference between reality and fantasy.Life is not a video game.
So it begins, felonies for 14 year olds ,instead of doing something about the problem we can start locking up and ruining lives of 14 year old kids. This is rediculous and I hope the parents of this county demand justice for this kid
Students will think twice about “joking around”.
This is how delinquency starts… it clearly indicates that his peers said he was “joking”. Is it ok? No! Giving him a record.. really?
Way to go. These kids will think twice about the jokes. The fear, resources, money, and valuable time wasted needs to be punished. Life is not a joke or a video game!
@Dave…. I would imagine you feel he should be given a participation trophy and have a safe space to vent his frustration any way he feels over not doing well in his math class?? Suspend his ass for awhile and maybe he and his fellow students will get the message.
USA Lover says
So he goes to juvey hall and mommie and daddy will have him out before dark. Poor baby…EXPEL HIM FOR GOOD Flagler County!
Always Something says
I agree something needs to be done so that kids understand the seriousness of what they say or threaten. On the other hand, in a case like this I believe a punishment of “constructive community work” is a better punishment than being labeled a felon for life.
There are kids who can’t face the challenges of math problems. Forcing them to this hurdle is a recipe for making a very unhappy child who might react with truancy, aggression, cheating,and other negative behavior just to evade the curriculum. How about modifying the math for practical endeavors – counting money, detect ing cheating, doing measurements, etc. Can he be a cashier ? Can he estimate the size of a lawn ? I don’t think e is going to MIT, Princeton, etc. We can lower our expectations but in a creative, practical, and realistic way.
@Anyone interested in more than just shooting of your mouth
Could begin with this:
Overview of Juvenile
A visit to any campus of Florida’s public universities would provide a wealth of information just waiting to be received by a well informed public intellectual like those we enjoy here.
Zero tolerance = zero critical thinking
What a disgrace…a felony charge…done to please Staly’s ego…a show at the expense of ones life…but not help for the child needing help. Flagler County is becoming more of an embarrassment every day.
Colon was charged with murder…in the system since 18 years old, probably ling before that…I wonder what all of that looked like and if Savannah’s death could have been avoided by how Colon was treated in the early years…maybe not…but I have to wonder.
Perfect.!!! That is how our schools should be ran. First time ever applauded. Hope all will follow same suit
So instead of a suspension at school or a detention we’re going straight for felonies? Teenagers joke about killing them self when they’re upset. Teenagers joke about a lot of deep stuff but all of you on here really think a felony will fix anything?
I’m sorry, but a death threat is a death threat. This kid was old enough to know that. Break the law, you will be arrested. That is exactly why I voted for Sheriff Staly. For those embarrassed by this, you are free to leave.
Cant say bomb in an airport so….
@ USA Lover – it’s bad enough that he’s getting a felony charge on his record to follow him through life, but taking away his education through expulsion and further affecting later applications to higher institutions that could maybe improve his quality of life and decrease his chances of becoming a career criminal is a little extreme.
I understand that with the recent ongoings schools are going to be strict in situations like this, and while I’m not sure I’m entirely comfortable this poor kid was arrested for a stupid impulsive joke all 14 year Olds make, I also do not know any better alternatives. In school suspension is too much of a “slap on the wrist” in my opinion and a felony also a little extreme, but I’m not a deputy and I’m also not a school administrator or fellow parent of his classmates.
Things like this need to be addressed, but “zero tolerance” is exactly as @Amy says – zero critical thinking. I believe there should be some sort of leveled diagram of methods to follow when dealing with disciplining this type of behavior. Sending them straight to juvinile detention no matter what is just wrong, especially when witnessess said they knew he was joking.
Fredrick I agree, suspend his ass,but a felony? No I don’t agree
Love our sheriff says
Awe! Poor baby, the big bad sheriff ruined his life! C’mon folks! Did anyone find what he said funny? Or thought it was a joke? As a parent I commend what the sheriff did! Stop being enablers, you want to tell a joke, why did the chicken cross the road, not that I am going to shoot anyone! Same way you can’t say bomb on a plane or fire in a movie theater! The other students in this school that didn’t do well on their math test didn’t joke about shooting anyone, why should he be allowed to. Life ain’t a joke buttercup, so suck it up! Time kids these days learn some accountability! Yes Raul there are consequences in life….
Student at Matanzas says
Are you kidding me? Half the kids in school make jokes about shooting up the school because it’s just DARK humor.
Which most 14-19 year old students in this day in age have. It’s nog good? It’s crude, but that’s life.
This pour boy will now have a FELONY charge on his record for being frustrated over math.
In no way am I saying it’s rught to joke around in school about shooting, but being a student who made it through the lock down two years ago,
It will take more than a dumb kid saying he wants to die or shoot up the school to scare me.
He should of been suspended.
He does deserve to be expelled what if he wasn’t joking and really had a gun and these are our kids in the schools that would have been killed or injured to stop sticking up for somebody who made a horrible decision jokes are not going to be taken lightly of this nature
A Person who is concerned says
Question. If there is a no tolerance policy, why was one charged with a felony and the other just removed from school for the rest of the day.
Kathy, next time you are flying on a commercial airliner, standup and holler BOMB. Then see what happens to you after you claim that it was only a joke. You need to grasp the term “common sense” which many young kids in school and adults today drastically lack.
It’s a shame it has to come to this. Why not do an assembly and inform the students first. That would of been the wise thing to do. Not go over board with a felony charge. These are kids. The parents also have a responsibility to explain what is acceptable behavior. Schools and parents are failing at their job of raising the children of today. I call it as I see it: laziness and lack of common sense on the part of both.
As a parallel, may add that there are kids who are not geared for competitive athletic activities. It does not mean that they should not participate in sports or exercise, the activity should fit their fitness.
I’ve always considered myself a conservative, but this kind of “lock him up and throw away the key” garbage has me wondering if I left the camp without realizing it. Seriously, a felony arrest? They’ve basically cemented this kids future for what was obviously a (bad) joke.
For all feeling sorry for the “poor boy” being charged with a felony over a “joke”, don’t worry we all know the prosecuting attorney will offer a plea deal and this “kid” will just get a slap on the wrist.
You all do realize that even though he may be charged with a felony that is most likely not what it will end up as….. Just as the liberals don’t understand Trumps comments they don’t understand how these things are done. EVERYTHING is a negotiation.
Maximilian a student in the room when said says
Raul Hernandez was not a friend but rather a acquaintance he not known to say stuff like this but he does have a dark sense of humor. He didn’t say it to mean it. I know this situation is not a joking matter but the fact that you go out your way and put such a charge on a 14 YEAR OLD and F his life up in a instance. You know what that young man looked to me in class that day. A kind sweet and funny kid.The teacher present their knows he makes crude, ignorant jokes. He had said in the past that kids these days are dumb why do they bring guns to school and shoot the place up. People my age these days are not the brightest and hey we might do some dumb shit, maybe dumb enough to say that or eat tide pods but besides that you shouldn’t mess his life up so much over one joke. I know they cant take it as a joke but yes there shall be consequences but not so harsh to the kid. When I went to the deputy’s with 3 others to write a statement I saw him with his head down, He knew he messed up and i knew that he was sad regretful and angry at himself for saying that. I know that this wont make a difference saying this and no one will see it but it gets my anger out. You adults who have kids who disagree change your mind now if not tell me why you feel this way. If I hear one person say cause he said ugh I don’t know um he was gonna shoot up the school. ok don’t mean you do that though you don’t throw a kid to the wolfs after one sentence.
Chang Tootie says
To all of those applauding this arrest. When you tell the ‘wrong’ joke and they come for you, remember this day.
That’s why TSA agents have no tolerance for wisecracking ADULTS at checkpoints in airports, right? Because adults know of consequences, while kids still don’t really understand the concept yet.
Violence should never be an appropriate topic in a school environment. I agree that it is just not acceptable for students to joke about guns in school, and it should bring up questions about the mental health of a student when such an incident does occur. The incident with the student at Imagine School at Town Center should be the way all of these incidents are handled, with the student being removed from the school pending further investigation.
The callous self righteousness of many of the usual suspects in these comments sections is predictable. One of their primary inspirations is too:
How Ayn Rand became a big admirer of sadistic serial killer William Hickman
Mark Ames, AlterNet
“There’s something deeply unsettling about living in a country where millions of people froth at the mouth at the idea of giving health care to the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have it, or who take pleasure at the thought of privatizing and slashing bedrock social programs like Social Security or Medicare. It might not be so hard to stomach if other Western countries also had a large, vocal chunk of the population that thought like this, but the U.S. is seemingly the only place where right-wing elites can openly share their distaste for the working poor. Where do they find their philosophical justification for this kind of attitude?
It turns out, you can trace much of this thinking back to Ayn Rand, a popular cult-philosopher who exerts a huge influence over much of the right-wing and libertarian crowd, but whose influence is only starting to spread out of the U.S.
One reason most countries don’t find the time to embrace Ayn Rand’s thinking is that she is a textbook sociopath. In her notebooks Ayn Rand worshiped a notorious serial murderer-dismemberer, and used this killer as an early model for the type of “ideal man” she promoted in her more famous books. These ideas were later picked up on and put into play by major right-wing figures of the past half decade, including the key architects of America’s most recent economic catastrophe — former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan and SEC Commissioner Chris Cox — along with other notable right-wing Republicans such as Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, Rush Limbaugh and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
The loudest of all the Republicans, right-wing attack-dog pundits and the Teabagger mobs fighting to kill health care reform and eviscerate “entitlement programs” increasingly hold up Ayn Rand as their guru. Sales of her books have soared in the past couple of years; one poll ranked Atlas Shrugged as the second most influential book of the 20th century, after the Bible.
The best way to get to the bottom of Ayn Rand’s beliefs is to take a look at how she developed the superhero of her novel, Atlas Shrugged, John Galt. Back in the late 1920s, as Ayn Rand was working out her philosophy, she became enthralled by a real-life American serial killer, William Edward Hickman, whose gruesome, sadistic dismemberment of 12-year-old girl named Marion Parker in 1927 shocked the nation. Rand filled her early notebooks with worshipful praise of Hickman. According to biographer Jennifer Burns, author of Goddess of the Market, Rand was so smitten with Hickman that she modeled her first literary creation — Danny Renahan, the protagonist of her unfinished first novel, The Little Street — on him.
What did Rand admire so much about Hickman? His sociopathic qualities: “Other people do not exist for him, and he does not see why they should,” she wrote, gushing that Hickman had “no regard whatsoever for all that society holds sacred, and with a consciousness all his own. He has the true, innate psychology of a Superman. He can never realize and feel ‘other people.’”
This echoes almost word for word Rand’s later description of her character Howard Roark, the hero of her novel The Fountainhead: “He was born without the ability to consider others.” (The Fountainhead is Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ favorite book — he even requires his clerks to read it.)…”
Everywhere they look – they see themselves. No wonder they’re so cynical and paranoid.
Palm Coast Mom says
For all of those applauding this police action, are you parents of students at Matanzas? I am. And like the student posting states, dark humor from a freshman is expected. So what actually construes a threat in school? His peers believed him to be joking and they witnessed it!
I know raul personally. He isn’t a bad kid at all! just made a stupid mistake.