School officials and police in St. Johns, Florida announced they are conducting an investigation after a video showed students verbally harassing members of the Gay Straight Alliance at Bartram Trail High School. The incident occurred last Friday and the now-viral video appeared to show students stomping on a Pride flag and yelling anti-LGBTQ+ slurs at GSA students on the school’s campus.
“There’s only two genders, f*gg*t!” one student can be heard yelling repeatedly on video.
The mother of one of the targeted students told WJAX the incident was “terrifying.” She said her daughter was accosted by a group of boys carrying a Confederate flag and screaming homophobic abuse at her and other GSA members.
“She’s approached by one of the boys, who started yelling at her saying, ‘You’re gay! You have no rights!’ and kind of spitting at her,” the mother explained.
The mother also said the boys ripped a Pride flag out of her daughter’s hands, although it was unclear if it was the same flag that was stomped upon in the video. Both mother and daughter have asked to remain anonymous to protect them from further abuse.
A spokesperson for the St. Johns County School District told WJXT the incident was under investigation and that offending students would be held accountable for their actions.
“BTHS actively began investigating this situation on Friday and continues to do so today,” spokesperson Christina Langston said. “All those involved will receive consequences which align with our student code of conduct, Levels III and IV to be precise.”
She went on to say the incident was “not indicative of the culture and students at BTHS” and that it was “very disappointing that these students handled themselves in this way.”
However, one of the students who videotaped the incidents disagreed with Langston, saying they were often the subject of verbal abuse in the hallways at school.
“After seeing what happened on Friday, I, it makes me feel a lot less safe than I already did feel at school,” the unidentified student told WJXT. “Some of my friends have it worse than that. So it makes me feel really worried for my friends and myself.”
Friday’s incident in Florida was similar to an incident earlier this month in Georgia, where a widely circulated video appeared to show a student attacking a fellow student who was wearing a Pride flag in his high school cafeteria, violently throwing the flag into a trash can, and then attacking a fellow student who tried to stop him. The unnamed student at Lowndes High School now faces juvenile charges of disorderly conduct, simple battery, and disruption of a public facility.
The parent whose daughter was among those targeted Friday at Bartram Trail High School said the incident captured on video showed something must be done to stop this type of abusive assault on LGBTQ+ students.
“Enough is enough,” the concerned mother told WJAX. “It is time for that school board to take action at that school, and it needs some serious new leadership.”