Feb 242018
 

HOB Coverup: KWPD Chief Reportedly Furious… Decides To…

by Arnaud and Naja Girard…….

Confidential sources inside HOB (Key West’s Middle School) told The Blue Paper that a student was reported for having made very explicit death threats but that no action was taken. That student, they claimed, benefited from special protection, both from school administrators and from KWPD. The Blue Paper obtained a screen grab of an image showing the student pointing a gun at the camera; a caption read: “[I’m] gonna bust a cap in yah head.”

From there the story turned into a rollercoaster ride.

School District officials claimed school administrators, KWPD, and MCSO had worked together on a “full investigation.” But after a nearly 4-week probe conducted by The Blue Paper, it turns out none of that was true.

First KWPD was unable to provide any proof of an investigation, then they claimed that the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office had taken over the investigation at the time and that a “full report was available at the Sheriff’s office”.

When no such report could be found in MCSO files, KWPD claimed the facts regarding the HOB incident were “mistakenly” crisscrossed with another incident that had been fully investigated by MCSO and had involved students attending a different school. [The very KWHS theater prop-gun story we had already written about in our article…]

In the midst of the confusion State Attorney, Dennis Ward, opened his own investigation. [That investigation is ongoing.]

Finally, we learned, from sources inside KWPD, that Chief Donie Lee was furious at having been lied to by the HOB School Resource Officer and that he fired him for being disingenuous and for embarrassing the Department. [UPDATE Monday 2/26/2018: KWPD spokesperson Alyson Crean confirmed today that the School Resource Officer, David Hall, “is on paid administrative leave pending a predetermination meeting in regards to the proposed discipline.”]

If our information is correct, it seems that Chief Lee took direct action to address the breakdown involving the HOB gun threat incident. It is unclear, however, why there is still, apparently, no investigation of the student’s alleged criminal behavior by KWPD. [Chris Weber, Chief Investigator for the State Attorney’s office is the one conducting an investigation into the gun threat itself.] [UPDATE Monday 2/26/2018 KWPD spokesperson Alyson Crean stated the reason KWPD did not conduct a follow up investigation into the alleged gun threat involving HOB students is because “the State Attorney’s Office had initiated one last week.”

The School District, on the other hand, is making only very limited efforts towards transparency. They did send out a press release yesterday listing over a half-dozen recent threats made by students in Monroe County schools and relating some information on the actions taken. Still, the District makes no mention of the particular HOB incident in question.

It is easy to understand HOB parents’ and teachers’ frustration.

At about the same time that the HOB student sent the “gonna bust a cap in yah head” gun threat to a fellow student, another HOB student brought a plastic toy gun to school. It was described as an orange K-Mart style plastic toy by our source. That student was reportedly issued a KWPD citation, expelled, and forced into an alternative education program (which pretty much means his chances for any high-level academic achievement may be over.)

Last Saturday 19-year-old Duviel Gonzalez, a former Marathon High School student, was arrested on felony charges for posting photographs and threats aimed at Marathon High on Instagram, including the reposting of the “Florida Round 2” gun threat which some attribute to Russian fake news warfare.

Yet the “gonna bust a cap in yah head” student was not investigated or disciplined and is still attending the school.

We learned this week that some parents have now made direct complaints to the FBI and the State Attorney’s Office. One such parent claims that the student involved in the gun threat at HOB is also allegedly dealing drugs at school, together with his brother and his cousin, and that the sales take place on campus as well as at the student’s parent’s home and at his grandmother’s home. This same parent claims the complaint about drug dealing was originally made months ago directly to the HOB School Resource Officer. According to the parent, the student was allegedly found with drugs in his possession yet he was not cited by the officer or meaningfully disciplined by school administrators.

HOB Principal, Christina McPherson, still claims that “all protocols were followed” in the HOB gun threat incident but she has failed to make those “protocols” public. [She initially claimed they “could not be shared”.] Does the District even have a policy regarding the identification, supervision, and support of red-flagged students? Is there access to a psychologist with the appropriate expertise to help such students? What information about such threats should be disclosed to parents, faculty, the public and what should remain confidential?

On February 19th, the District finally acknowledged that the “protocols and policies” in question are public records and responded to our February 9th public records request. We were informed that we “will be advised” as to how much it’ll cost us and that “payment will be due in advance.” None of our specific questions have been acknowledged or answered.

At this point it appears that School District administrators are still trying to cover up the facts. And we still have not received a copy of the so-called “protocols and policies.” Do they even exist?

Neither the HOB Principal nor the Monroe County School District have issued a correction to their notes to parents or press releases claiming that the HOB gun threat incident was “thoroughly investigated” and, according to our sources, Principal McPherson has since placed a “gag order” on her staff and HOB top administrators have reportedly been mostly focused on uncovering just who is “leaking information to the Blue Rag”.

Discipline and law enforcement at HOB has been capricious and dysfunctional and entangled in favoritism and maybe even racial prejudice. One parent commented on social media, stating that the student who brought the orange plastic toy gun was a black child and was expelled, while the other student [a well-connected white child] was not disciplined at all. In Florida bringing a plastic toy gun to school is not a crime whereas sending a threat to kill someone using electronic communication is a felony of the second degree.

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Arnaud and Naja Girard
Arnaud and Naja Girard, owners and editors of the new, digital, Key West the Newspaper (The Blue Paper) previously reported for the former Key West The Newspaper, Key West’s longest running independent weekly, published by Dennis Reeves Cooper, Ph.D., from January 1994 until November 2012. The Girards are perhaps best known for their discovery of and extensive research surrounding the US Navy’s 1951 claim of ownership of Wisteria Island but are also responsible for top investigative stories including breaking news coverage of the highly controversial in-custody-death of Charles Eimers on Thanksgiving Day 2013, the catastrophic police tasing of Matthew Shawn Murphy, and the property tax scandal involving Balfour Beatty to name a few. Arnaud and Naja have lived in Key West since 1986.

  11 Responses to “HOB Coverup: KWPD Chief Reportedly Furious…”

  1. Wow….Another glaring example of double standard treatment/white privilege. Life permanently altered for the black kid, zero consequences for the white kid. Racism is alive and well at HOB!

  2. “On February 19th, the District finally acknowledged that the “protocols and policies” in question are public records and responded to our February 9th public records request. We were informed that we “will be advised” as to how much it’ll cost us and that “payment will be due in advance.” None of our specific questions have been acknowledged or answered.”

    Classic stonewalling. They should know better. Admit , admit , or face further scrutiny. Can’t fix stupid! FOIA laws are there for good reason. To obfuscate further has been shown to be ” fatal” in other cases.

  3. Parents could fix this in minutes by selecting home schooling and the impact would knock them on the ass.Teachers with no job and empty school .
    Will hold off on judging Lee unless we have proof he did not know the facts.
    In short shut the dam schools,all of them and home teach. Bet that would wake them up.

  4. Homeschooling is hardly a solution, and it would take a while for parents to implement it, if they had the time and education to homeschool. The quick fix is for HOB parents to gang up on the school and keep their kids home until this perhaps white Conch kid is arrested and in jail, and everyone knows who he is.

  5. Besides the usual and expected smoke and spinning from the school and superintendent of schools and the school board, HOB’s principal, Christina McPherson, is a very well liked, beloved actually, white Conch. She is married to former Key West mayor Morgan McPherson. The McPhersons are Conchs. Police Chief Donie Lee is a Conch.

    The Conchs were rocked by the Acevedo scandal a few years back, when then Conch superintendent of schools Randy Acevedo’s wife, Monique, was caught stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of school funds when she worked for the school district. Monique’s supervisor, deputy superintendent Mike Henriquez, whose father once had been superintendent of schools, was demoted to principal of HOB. Then due to an alleged scandal at HOB, Henriquez was moved elsewhere in the school district, and Christiana McPherson took his place.

    Randy was a Conch and childhood friend of Mayor Morgan McPherson. Christina, was the only school official in the chain of command having anything to do with Monique, who was not reported in the local news as being questioned by the school district and by law enforcement. I had the highest regard for Christina back then, but I could not help but wonder out loud on my blog why she was not interviewed about any dealings she might have had with Monique Acevedo? Morgan threatened to sue me for libeling Christina, but the lawsuit never came.

    Now I hear and read of this death by gun threat at HOB, and that Christina and her teachers were in a screaming match and that Christina put a gag order on her teachers and staff. This does not look to me like the Christina I thought I knew and had heard so much good about.

    I do not understand why Christina has not taken the bull by the horns and cleared the air good and proper. Is it because the student in question is from an important Conch family? Is Christina close to that family. Does that family attend the same Church Christina attends? Morgan once started a church, which his brother and parents then pastored after Morgan had moved on.

    If I had a child at HOB, I would pull him/her out of HOB until I know which student made the threat, and that he is no longer at HOB, and that he is locked up somewhere safe.

    State Attorney Dennis Ward’s Office prosecuted both Acevedos. Randy was convicted for covering up his wife’s stealing, and he was put on probation. Monique then pleaded out and got 8 years in prison.

    The Key West Conchs, led by former Key West city commissioner Harry Bethel, then led the charge to defeat Ward in the 2012 State Attorney race, because Ward had prosecuted Randy Acevedo and also one of Bethel’s sons, for robbing fisherman’s lobster traps. Ward put that Bethel in prison. Ward, a Democrat, lost the 2012 race, because his Republican opponent carried Key West overwhelmingly. Ward then became a Republican and regained his seat in the 2016 State Attorney race.

    I think it might not be stretching it much to say, and I said it to Naja and Arnaud Girard, that going against Christian McPherson is kinda like going against the Queen of the Key West Conchs.

  6. March 15 is just around the corner. March 15 is when the blue paper will shut down due to lack of reader financial support. March 15 is when what the school district, KWPD, the Monroe County Sheriff Office, the Key West and Monroe County governments, and lots of Key West and Florida Keys residents who don’t like their boats and beliefs and misdeeds rocked, will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

  7. I am very pleased to learn that Dennis Ward’s office will be investigating. I have found the SAO operation to be above reproach. I have had several interactions with Chris Weber intervening on my behalf with the School District. He was very effective every time and I have all the confidence in the world in him. If anyone can get to the bottom, it will be Chris.

    • Really? I haven’t been terribly impressed with Weber. He seems to have a let-bubbas-be-bubbas type of attitude. Hope he does alright on this one. Stakes are high.

  8. If you have a “screen grab” of this individual, why is is not being posted for all to see? I understand there are rules related to minors but for this level of behavior I think those rules are out of the window. Perhaps the threat should be ” come clean or we post the pics!”….

  9. Alex and Associates,

    Reckless incompetence and dereliction of duty; coupled with partisan political ideologies, along with some good old home spun bigotry and bias, will eventually bring darkness and death into the lives of our students and their families. Let’s keep monkeying around with the transparency, accountability and Good Orderly Direction required for safe schools and success in life.

    The Superintendent now works at the pleasure of our School Board. Is anyone out there going to step up and take charge? Does anyone have the fire, passion and courage to “Protect and Lead our Children”? By the way, when will our schools begin to guarantee a “word class” education for all children?

    Been down the road of this double-standard of justice before. One set of punishments for students of the well connected and wealthy. Another, for the less affluent.

    Dark Skinned students and athletes got hit a lot harder for misbehavior; than their Lighter Skinned colleagues.

    I demonstrated my dislike and resistance towards the inconsistency of “school discipline policies” publicly in the front office. My aggression was measure, persistent and overwhelming. My students had some wins, losses and draws. I believe the discriminatory practices against this targeted group of children decreased. One thing for certain, myself and the students I served bonded together in a manner that significantly increased their success in the classroom. Many built upon their achievements through the years and created comfortable lives for themselves and families. Many of those facing difficulties have done so with grace, poise and an enduring faith.

    Have we placed the wrong people in these sensitive positions?

    Thanks for an outstanding article and superb comments….