Teacher allegedly targeted with racist threats from students speaks out
PALM COAST, Fla. (FOX 35 WOFL) - A Flagler County teacher spoke publicly for the first time since two of her students were accused of making racist, online death threats against her.
On Tuesday, Kimberly Lee and her husband Travis stood with a large crowd of local civil rights leaders and advocates in front of the Flagler County Courthouse. The Flagler-Palm Coast High School teacher saying she hasn’t been back to work since the incident last week.
"It's heartbreaking. I miss my students,” said Lee.
Last Monday, representatives for the Flagler School District said it was discovered that 2 students had exchanged threatening messages online about one of their teachers.
Throughout the week, investigators revealed that those messages were between a male student and a female student targeting Lee. In transcripts released to the public, those messages revealed racist language and threats to kill the African American teacher.
"Unfortunately, I don't feel safe anymore in my classroom,” said Lee.
Lee appeared at a press conference alongside the Flagler County branch of the NAACP. Leaders with the group organized the event to call on the Florida State Attorney’s Office to increase the charges against the 2 students to felony-level aggravated assault charges.
The civil rights advocates also took issue with the Flagler County Sheriff’s office who, in the initial phases of the investigation, didn’t charge the students.
"He [the sheriff] later relented on the following day and filed charges of a simple assault,” said NAACP Flagler Legal Regress Chairman Eric Josey. “That is unacceptable, and flat-out, it's very insulting."
Currently, the sheriff’s office says the students are charged with assault with an enhancement for hate crime under Florida law. Representatives also said any allegations that are burying the case are incorrect.
"We are still exploring avenues of the investigation,” said Flagler Chief Investigator Steve Brandt, “Sometimes these take time. We don't have a timeline on our investigations; they unfold as they unfold."
Brandt said that includes the possibility of more charges being filed in the future. Leaders with the NAACP and partnering organizations including the ACLU said Tuesday that the evidence already calls for the harsher charges.
"When hate speech turns the corner and turns into criminal activity: we must draw the line right there,” said George Griffin from the Volusia-Flagler ACLU.
The NAACP submitted a letter to the State Attorney’s office this week formally requesting an increase in the charges.
"Our office is in receipt of the charging affidavit from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office concerning the threatening of a Flagler County teacher. We are conducting a complete, thorough investigation of this case in cooperation with the FCSO. After a complete, review of all relevant evidence and applicable law we will make a fair, objective, and impartial filing decision," read a statement from State Attorney’s Office spokesman Bryan Shorstein. "It would be premature and counterproductive to discuss the case further at this early stage in the investigation."