Chiles High School principal addresses incidents, implements new flag policy

WCTV Eyewitness News
May 19, 2017

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- After a string of incidents at Chiles High School, Principal Joseph Burgess sent an email to parents. He also implements a new policy on flags allowed on school campus.

In the email he calls the various incidents, "not the school." He goes on to say that all the incidents that have happened on campus are not connected.

On Tuesday, students were seen waving confederate flags in the parking lot, creating tension between students. In reference to this incident, Burgess' Thursday night email stated, "a small group of students had a verbal altercation in our parking lot that included insults and inflammatory actions."

Read more: Confederate Flag waved on Chiles High campus causing issues

Then Tuesday night, Chiles officials heard about a threat circulating social media. It prompted them to excuse student absences on Wednesday. Law enforcement investigated the threat and found it to be unsubstantiated. Extra deputies were at the school as an extra precaution.

Read more: Officials investigating social media threat to Chiles High School

The latest incident happened Thursday. A 14-year-old student was arrested for vandalizing cars in the school's parking lot. According to law enforcement, the student was upset over the confederate flags being waved on campus earlier in the week.

Read more: Chiles student arrested for vandalizing vehicles on campus

In the email sent to parents just after 8 p.m. Thursday, Burgess announced a new policy when it comes to flags on campus. He states, "No flags but the American Flag can be flown on any vehicle on our campus."

Here's the full email that was sent to parents:

Dear Parents, Community Members, Faculty and Staff,

We are Chiles High School. A great school and ambassador to our Tallahassee community. As stated in our school mission statement, “Lawton Chiles High School is building a tradition of excellence by providing the best learning environment where students are challenged to be active learners, leaders, achievers and contributors within a global community.”

In understanding that mission, it is also important to understand that no student or adult on this campus is perfect in form or mind, though we strive for it as we best know how.

There have been various reported accounts of incidents on our campus from sources that are not the school. To get the most accurate account of anything that has occurred without violating privacy rights of our students, we strongly encourage you to contact the school.

Some sources have reported that all of the incidents the last few days are connected, and they are not. That is simply speculation. On Tuesday, a small group of students had a verbal altercation in our parking lot that included insults and inflammatory actions.

There was also an unsubstantiated threat that could have included our school but was general and unverified. Today, another student vandalized several vehicles. These are isolated incidents and do not reflect the goodwill of the student body seen here on a daily basis. We do not condone any of these actions. The students involved have been addressed about their actions as appropriate.

This week has been a teachable moment for our student body about passionate feelings in regards to symbols or imagery among our various races, ethnicities, and sexual orientations on our campus. There has been great dialogue by many students and staff about this situation and that will continue. Students, friends, or associates of the incident on Tuesday have been warned in person that any further incidents will result in being sent home for the rest of the school year. We have high expectations for all of our students and expect them to meet and exceed these expectations as presented.

Parents, we encourage you to have a positive dialogue with your child in regards to these incidents. They are disturbing and unnerving but they are also isolated. Please ask them to refrain from negative conversations on and off campus as well as engaging in activity that may become volatile.

Furthermore parents, we ask that you please be mindful of your child’s social media activity and your own as many times these sites foster sentiments and feelings that are counterproductive to a safe learning environment. You all have a right to say and view what you like but be careful as we look to you as partners in shaping the minds and actions of our students. To better assist us in this mission, this listserv is making everyone aware of the school policy to be adhered to until the last day of school:

1. No flags but the American Flag can be flown on any vehicle on our campus.
2. Students must park in their assigned space. 9th, 10th, and 11th graders who do not have an assigned parking space may park in the senior parking lot.

We will also mention this on the announcements and in all classrooms to make sure all students are aware of the policy.

If you have questions or concerns please contact my administration or me. My staff and I are proud to serve you and your family at this fine school.

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