State Watch

Florida school district condemns students accused of harassing LGBT rights supporters

A Florida school district said it is taking action in response to viral social media footage that appeared to capture a group of local high school students harassing classmates involved in an LGBT rights organization on campus by yelling homophobic slurs and stomping on a Pride flag. 

Cellphone footage from the incident, which occurred at the end of the school day Friday at Bartram Trail High School (BTHS) in St. Johns County, appeared to show some students holding up Confederate flag symbols and approaching their classmates outside, yelling statements like, "Y'all have a mental illness," and "There's only two genders," followed by the F-word derogatory term referring to gay people. 

A transgender student who filmed one of the videos told local news staton WJXT that a group of male students were targeting members of the school's Gay-Straight Alliance club. 

Other videos showed students appearing to stomp on a Pride flag as other students could be heard laughing in the background. 

St. Johns County School District spokesperson Christina Langston said in a statement shared with The Hill that "seven male students received consequences within the Level III and Level IV infractions within our student code of conduct." 

According to text of the student code shared with The Hill, Level III violations include "major acts of misconduct which the School Board has determined constitute a serious breach of conduct," while "Level IV acts of misconduct are the most serious," with possible sanctions including suspension, placement in another school or expulsion. 

Students found to have committed Level III and Level IV infractions may also face criminal proceedings, according to the district's code of conduct. 

Langston added that the alleged actions of the students were "not acceptable" and were "not indicative of the culture and students at BTHS." 

"It is extremely disappointing that these students handled themselves in this way," she said. 

Langston said that the school district, along with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office's youth resource deputy division, had launched an investigation into the incident.

The district spokesperson told The Hill that the incident occurred hours after the school held a fair for its more than 60 school-sponsored clubs. 

The sheriff's office told local CBS affiliate WJAX-TV that as of Monday, there had been no criminal charges filed in the case. 

The Hill has reached out to the sheriff's office for further comment. 

One BTHS parent told told The St. Augustine Record that the alleged actions of some of the students were "really upsetting." 

"I think anyone who sees something like this going on at their child's school is going to be concerned," Nancy Tray said. "Everyone wants their child to be part of a school community that has acceptance and respect, and I don't think that this video demonstrates that."

Updated at 5:56 p.m.