Chiles High School On Edge After Social Media Threats, Confederate Flag Display

May 17, 2017

A social media threat coupled with a clash over the display of confederate flags have parents and their children on alert at Chiles High School.

A Chiles HS student waves a confederate flag from his truck as students look on.

Wednesday’s attendance at Chiles was low with excused absences stemming from a social media threat now under investigation. The threat comes after a parking lot conflict Tuesday where some students waved a confederate flag.

District spokesman Chris Petley says students were allowed to display the flags on their trucks, but “Yesterday, during the school day, some sort of commotion occurred, a disruption on campus, and district administrators talked to the students and told them to take the flags down.”

Chiles Principal Joe Burgess emailed parents Tuesday evening informing them that there was a threat to the campus, and that student absences would be excused for Wednesday. Most of the school’s seniors were also absent due to having already finished classes for the year.

Burgess sent the following message out on the school's list serve Tuesday evening.

Dear Parents, Community Members, Faculty Members and Staff,

Please take your time to read the following carefully:  

I want to assure all of you that the safety of our students is the most important thing we provide every day.  Your children are safe here at Chiles.  Earlier this evening, our administration received an anonymous notification of a potential threat to our campus tomorrow.  We take all possible threats seriously and have alerted the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and the Superintendent along with the Leon County Schools Safety and Security Office.  Both agencies will have staff members here to add additional security to our campus.  Classes and activities will take place as normal.  Parents, you make the decision for what is best for your child and if you choose to keep your students at home their absences will be excused.

I also want to make you aware of a situation that occurred on campus today.  This is the possible source of tensions and raw feelings for our students.  In the spring, a handful of Chiles students displayed Confederate flags in the back of their vehicles.  Administrators opened a dialogue with the students and informed them of their limited First Amendment rights and historical symbolism associated with the Confederate Flag felt by various groups of students at Chiles High School.  Administrators also informed the students of the ramifications if their actions created a disturbance on campus. This morning, after some commotion on campus, the students were asked to remove the flags.  As there are only two weeks of school remaining, students have been instructed not to display the flags for the remainder of the year and moving forward.

As a public school, we believe in the freedom of expression by our students.  However, if student behavior causes a disruption to the educational environment the student code of conduct establishes an appropriate administrative response. 

We appreciate your continued support of our students, faculty, and staff.

Please feel free to contact my administrative staff or me with any further questions or concerns.

Thank you and take care.