It’s been a while—a year and a week, to be exact—since a Flagler County student was arrested on charges of making death threats in connection with a school. That calm ended when a 12-year-old Indian Trails Middle School student was arrested and threatened with a mass shooting before dawn.
Neither the child nor her parents, who live in a new subdivision in northwest Palm Coast, own guns. The child’s parents notified authorities that she had suicidal thoughts two months ago, but were unable to set up an appointment with a therapist.
In most of such cases, the threats are spoken irresponsibly and jokingly. The evidence in this case points in a more sinister direction, with the student going through deliberate, premeditated planning before letting others know about her messages on Snapchat and calling it quits.
According to the girl’s heavily redacted arrest report, the incident appears to have started on Monday when the sixth-grader became upset about a social media chat that appeared to involve social media chatter. Someone out of state found “Snapchat messages from a friend who wanted to kill people and shoot up schools.” The alleged threat was passed on to others in Flagler County, who notified the Sheriff’s Office. (This is the first year the district has moved sixth graders from elementary schools to middle schools.)
Deputies’ investigation turned to some saved Snapchat messages that indicated the girl was trying to buy a gun from another juvenile. Deputies conducted much of their investigation overnight, waking up young students who had already gone to sleep in two cases — one of the witnesses, and then, after speaking with her parents, a 12-year-old who became suspicious herself. She agreed to speak with deputies, but that part of the account is blacked out in her arrest report.
A sheriff’s statement said deputies’ investigation revealed “several messages about killing people and shooting at the school” and that “when questioned, the student was planning a mass shooting at ITMS but needed to gather supplies to use first. The suspect made contact with another student after prompting the parent to buy a pair of football gloves and the gun.” Tried to buy.
In Florida, it’s generally easier to get a gun than to secure a therapist or psychiatrist. Florida law changed after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland to make a written threat to kill a second-degree felony, regardless of the age of the person making the threat. Dozens of students in Flagler County have been arrested on such charges, and in no case was there evidence of actual malice. Courts usually sentence the offender to probation.
“We don’t like these arrests, but if your child threatens to harm someone, we will knock on your door,” Sheriff Rick Staley said in a statement. “Thank you to the parent who found the messages on their child’s phone and reported it to us so we could act quickly to prevent an incident from happening at Flagler County Schools. I also hope this child gets the mental health help he needs.
Mental health treatment for children has been scarce in Flagler County in recent years, but the school district and agencies like Flagler Cares are now making such options more readily available, starting with school counselors and psychologists.
The last such incident in Flagler schools involved a 13-year-old student at Buddy Taylor Middle School, who allegedly made an empty threat during lunch because fellow students were asking him about a rumor they had heard. .