ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — It’s been more than a month since someone wrote a racist death threat on a bathroom stall at St. Pete Catholic High School and the school still hasn’t identified the person responsible. 

What You Need To Know

Just this week an email went out to parents alerting them of another racist act of vandalism at the school. In the email the email to parents the principal said the he n-word was discovered written on the bleachers in the gym. The racist graffiti was discovered Friday, February 18th and parents were alerted that following Monday, February 21st. 

Before the latest incident a group of parents and students met with the NAACP to discuss next steps. Many parents questioned the handling of the first threat discovered last month. The school’s principal said he waited days before telling police about a threat written on a bathroom stall to that threatened to “kill all n-words”. He said the school was investigating internally.

School leaders also said they waited days before alerting parents about the threat. They laid out a timeline of how everything unfolded starting from the day the threat was discovered.

The Superintendent of Catholic Schools with the diocese of St Petersburg, Christopher Pastura, sent an email saying the school has been “clear in denouncing racism and prejudice in all forms” and that safety is their priority. He also said several initiatives are underway including: an independent investigation, faculty and staff training, parent listening sessions and a school culture and climate study.

Students like Justin Bowman said they’ve had to step up to try to fix what they believe is a culture of racism at the school. “I’ll be honest, it’s kind of stressful for me as a student. Having to stand up in front of my colleagues to tell them why I deserve to go to school here and feel safe is kinda crazy," Bowman said. “It’s gotten to the point where I’m being taken out of class to try to help my administrators try to figure out how to fix this problem.”

It’s a problem he didn’t create but one St. Petersburg NAACP Chapter President, Esther Eugene and Senator Daryl Rouson are determined to make sure is fixed. 

Both leaders told the group at the meeting with the NAACP they’re monitoring the situation at the school closely and Eugene has a list of expectations. 

Justin’s grandfather David Jackson said he has expectations too that include finding the person responsible for the threat.  

“To me it’s real,” he said. “It’s real and that’s why I’m willing to support whatever comes down the line to make whatever, really we need to try to find out who did that. And really just by looking at his handwriting we should be able to find out.” 

“That was terrifying. Because that’s a real situation these days. Kids will pick up a handgun or automatic weapon and go use it,” Jackson said.

Students said there has been a recent rise in hate at the school and it’s forcing their family and many others to weigh the advantages of their child remaining at the school.

“I think something could happen. But we weigh it because evidently, he’s getting a top rated education and my hope is that he can continue to get that education. And it’s hard, I can’t even get it out of my mouth. I hope he can still get that education and not have to deal with all of the fear that they’re going through,” Jackson said.

For students like Justin, sadly this is their reality for now. He’s hoping the conversations they are having will lead to learning.

“I just pray that things can be better for the new kids that are coming to school that they don’t have to go through these type of things or that there doesn’t have to be another situation like the ones we’ve been through before,” he said.

The Florida Department of Education’s website spells out how something like this would be handled at a public school. According to their best practices, it’s recommended to take immediate action to protect victims by notifying their parents and contacting law enforcement.

But private schools have their own set of rules.

St. Pete Catholic’s Superintendent said they plan to work with law enforcement, security specialists, and school leaders to come up with their safety plan and he said they revise that plan as necessary. 

Pinellas County Schools provided information about their response to threats in schools. 

All threats whether written, verbal or posted online are taken seriously and immediately reported to law enforcement to be fully investigated. Plus, state law requires that each school have a Threat Assessment Team that also includes a law enforcement representative. While LEO investigates the school’s Threat Assessment Team also look into the potential threat. Both come together to review their findings. 

LEO and school administrators will attempt to identify the source behind the threat and/or if the threat is an active threat or not credible.   

Closed Campus vs. Lockdown (usually ordered by LEO or the school administration) 

  • Closed Campus: a school closes to outside visitors due to activity in the neighborhood and the normal school day continues
  • Lockdown: ordered when there’s an imminent danger inside or in the vicinity of the school that prohibits students from evacuating and requires students to shelter in place for safety. Students remain in the classroom and there’s no movement throughout the school
  • Lockdowns can be activated through the mobile Safer Watch app accessible to staff, InterLogic Solutions Active Assailant button lockdown system at the school or by calling 911. A staff member can verbally call for the lockdown too

Depending on the potential threat parents would be notified during and/or immediately after the potential threat has passed or determined to be not credible. ​