As William Miller tried to drive out of the high school parking lot, two adults stopped him, blocking the exit lane with a golf cart.
“You’re going to get shot, you come another f------ foot closer to me,” the deputy said. “You run into me, you’ll get f------ shot.”
The tense interaction played out on a body camera video that William’s mother, Nedra Miller, shared on Facebook last month. Miller told the Tampa Bay Times on Friday that she had called the school to excuse her son’s absence in advance and that he didn’t want to interrupt her at work.
The school suspended William from Dec. 17 to Jan. 9, his mother said. Then, River Ridge High School expelled him permanently.
Despite the dire consequences for William, the two adults involved in the interaction have faced few repercussions. A school district spokesman told The Washington Post in a statement that it is not investigating the incident. The sheriff’s office opened an internal review to determine whether the deputy, who has not been named, violated any policies. However, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office told the Post the deputy has not been suspended and continues to work at the high school.
“All three were acting like children and all three are wrong,” Miller told the Times. “But the cop more so. He’s just flat out not okay to be around children. I was shocked that an officer of the law working with children would speak to my son that way.”
Armed police officers have become common fixtures on school grounds nationwide in recent years, as mass shootings have grown more frequent and deadlier. In Florida, where William goes to school, lawmakers voted last year to allow teachers to carry guns at school in the wake of the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 people.
The tolerance of guns on campus has not been universally welcomed by students, parents or teachers. Supporters, including the Trump administration, say armed guards would prevent mass shootings. Critics argue the presence of guns would actually lead to an increased risk of violence at schools.
When lawmakers first allowed school employees to be armed in Florida in 2018, the Times reported the legislation did nothing to bar school employees who had been disciplined for threats or violence from bringing guns to class. At least 19 times, employees had been formally disciplined by the state for making threats, illegally using firearms or harming people at school.
In Florida and across the United States, legally carried guns have been involved in many headline-making incidents on school campuses.
A school resource officer in a Chicago suburb threatened to kill a student while grabbing his neck in November 2018, then drew his gun and pointed it at several students after breaking up a fight, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
In William’s western Florida school district, a school resource officer accidentally fired his service weapon while it was holstered inside a middle school cafeteria last April.
Two students were shot by police officers at Wisconsin high schools in two days in December. One refused to drop a gun he had brought to school and the standoff ended when a police officer shot him. The other student stabbed a school resource officer, who then fired one shot.
On Jan. 31, a school resource officer threatened students and cussed at them after breaking up a fight near a North Miami high school campus. On a cellphone video recorded by students nearby, the officer is shown placing her hand on her gun.
“I’ll shoot all your asses,” she said. The officer was placed on administrative leave last week, pending an internal investigation.
“The behavior portrayed in this video is inappropriate for any person associated with Miami-Dade County Public Schools,” school district spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego told The Washington Post in a statement. “The District takes great pride in promoting core values, such as respect and restraint, to students and we expect employees to lead by example.”
Tense interactions between armed officers and students aren’t always clear-cut. Kids can be combative, rude and even violent. William’s mother admits that her son could have handled the disagreement in the parking lot differently. On Facebook, she wrote that she disciplined her son for his behavior, but she still believes the officer and school employee acted inappropriately.
“They are the ones cursing and threatening,” she said. “My son did nothing to provoke such behavior from the ‘adult’ in this situation.”
When William was stopped on his way out of the high school parking lot, he refused to call his mother at work or tell the sheriff’s deputy where he was going. He repeatedly told the authority figures he had permission to leave the campus. They consistently pushed back, telling him he could leave if he called his parents and had them excuse his absence over the phone.
William eventually gave up his argument with the unnamed school resource officer and the school’s discipline assistant, Cindy Bond. By then, Bond had already decided to give William a four-day suspension for truancy, defiance and profanity. William cannot be heard using profanity at any point during the body camera footage of the argument, though the deputy curses at the boy several times. At one point, when William asked why he was being suspended, Bond, who is white, told him he would be suspended for calling her the n-word. William, who is also white, appeared surprised by the allegation. The video does not show the student saying any profane words or slurs.
“I didn’t say that,” the teen said. “You’re being, like, hella racist by saying that.”
When William finally parked in the lot and went into the school office, Bond told the officer, “He cracks me up.”
William’s mother said on Facebook he had been suspended until Jan. 9. Then, the school decided to permanently expel him. Miller said both the threat to shoot her son and the punishment he received were out of proportion for an alleged attendance violation.
“We can all see this could have been a disaster,” Miller wrote on Facebook. “Someone could have actually been hit or shot. No one in this situation is in the right.”