A Key Largo School student with apparent emotional and behavioral problems reportedly threatened to shoot and stab his classmates and teachers during an outburst last week.
The third-grader was suspended from school for two days but is back this week, which has many parents angered at school administrators and concerned about their children's safety. A strong showing of Key Largo School parents is expected at Tuesday's School Board meeting at Marathon High School demanding answers.
Parents are angry with the school's administration for not expelling the student, who, according to several parents, has a history of making threats and displaying bizarre and violent behavior going back more than a year.
"This matter at hand, it's building," said Pedro Reinoso. "It's not a mushroom that grew over night. He is a child that needs help, and he's just not getting it."
These parents are also upset that they were not contacted about the incident by administrators.
"They call us when they want a donation, but not when a kid threatens to shoot our kids in the face," said parent Rob Bulkiewicz.
Key Largo School Principal Julia Hoar referred all questions to Superintendent Mark Porter, who did not return a phone call.
Regarding expulsion, however, it appears the school may not have any choice but to deal with such problem students, no matter how severe their behavior. School Board member John Dick says state law prohibits schools from kicking students out for more than 10 days.
"The state says that we have to provide an education," Dick said. "Unfortunately, we don't have the facilities in the district to handle a situation like that."
According to an incident report from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, the third-grader, who was not identified because of his age, picked up a pencil and pretended to stab a classmate and a teacher. He also told his classmates he was going "to shoot them all in the head," according to the report.
During the outburst, the student also described to his classmates how he was going to attack them with a chainsaw.
Several parents were so angry that they have pulled their children from school. Parent Jackie Bello is one of them, opting to let her two students work from home Monday.
"I don't want them to fall behind, but my kids are not in school," Bello said. "I'm not willing to put them at risk."
Bulkiewicz said the school's handling of the Jan. 8 situation contradicts its zero-tolerance policy when it comes to other violent behavior, such as bullying.
"They have a zero-tolerance policy for bullying, but it's OK to threaten to shoot other students," Bulkiewicz said. "That's bullying to me."
Bulkiewicz said administrators told him that the child would not be evaluated by a counselor before he was let back in school.
"They told me everything is fine, 'he's in a good mood,' " he said. "Well, Ted Bundy was in a good mood, too, sometimes."