NAACP wants felony charges for teens accused of threatening teacher

Civil rights leaders say students should face hate crime charges

By Ezzy Castro - Reporter

FLAGLER COUNTY, Fla. - Members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People held a news conference on Tuesday in support of Flagler Palm Coast High School teacher Kimberley Lee.

The NAACP said Lee is a victim of hate crime assault after two of her students allegedly made online threats about her last week.

"I've never experienced anything like this before," Lee said. "It's heartbreaking. I miss my students."

NAACP members are demanding the students receive felony charges.

"Had those children been black, they would have been arrested immediately and those charges would have been felony charges. They would not have been sent home to their parents," NAACP President Linda Matthews said. 

The Flagler County Sheriff's Office recommended misdemeanor assault charges instead. Chief Steve Brandt said race was not a factor in the charging decision.

"That isn't even considered. We're looking at the facts of the case," Brandt said.

Investigators say a boy and a girl used school-issued computers to send each other disturbing, hate crime-filled messages about Lee.

The two 16-year-old students, whose identities have not been released, have not been back in class since the investigation began.

"We still have to do some forensic analysis on some of the electronic devices to ascertain if there is any more evidence that can corroborate further more severe charges or further back up the charges we already have," Brandt said.

The news conference took place at the Flagler County Courthouse at noon.

State Attorney R.J. Larizza's office responded to the NAACP with the following statement:

"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. It would be premature and counterproductive to discuss the case further at this early stage in the investigation."

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