A teacher is sleeping a little easier tonight now two of her students at Southwood Middle School in Palmetto Bay, Florida were arrested Sunday after they threatened, via Instagram, to kill her and her children on Valentine’s Day. The news comes as Florida mourns the anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
Students: Heed the warning!Parents: Please take note and speak to your children about responsible social media use. Hoax Threat to @MDCPS School Results in Arrests https://t.co/D8Np55iVpe. #ThinkBeforeYouPost #ZeroTolerance
— Alberto M. Carvalho (@MiamiSup) February 12, 2019
The victim, a 36-year-old teacher who by many accounts is beloved by her students, was told “You and your children are next on Valentine’s Day for making my life I’m finna kill all yo family and shoot up yo bitch ass school.” They also brought to her attention a picture of her infant daughter. The woman, fearing for her life and that of her family, contacted police, who were able to trace the bogus social media account account (appropriately-named, and very indicative of the young children who created it, “Southwood School Shooter”) and arrest a 13-year-old child, who then implicated his 12-year-old friend as an accomplice. Both boys confessed and were charged with Aggravated Stalking and Written Threats To Kill or do Bodily Injury and taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools issued the following statement through their Superintendent, Alberto Carvalho:
“Recent arrests of students for hoax social media threats demonstrate clearly and unequivocally that Miami-Dade County Public Schools has a zero-tolerance policy related to this type of activity. Parents and students must understand that any threat – real or fabricated – to schools and students is a serious matter. It is unacceptable and those involved in such activity will be prosecuted. Prank and hoax threats made against a school are counterproductive to the life-saving work of law enforcement and compromise the safety of everyone.”
Televised interviews show parents who seem content to believe that the district has done enough to keep their children safe, and that they do an adequate job of communicating all of the potential threats in their schools to families. Some believe it’s not that serious because it’s “most likely” just a hoax, anyway.
DCPS states they’ve received 60 threats to their schools in 2019, and 12 of them have resulted in arrests.
Southwood Middle School is the site of a fatal stabbing that took place in 2004, when Michael Hernandez murdered classmate Jaime Gough, earning him a life sentence. Both victim and perpetrator were 14.
Today, the school boasts a positive report on GoodSchools.Org, with above average test scores in the state for both reading and math, as well as a decent representation of ethnicities among the student population. Southwood serves approximately 1500 students in grades 6 through 8.