The Lakeland Police Department has investigated a claim that a fifth-grader at Blake Academy posted a video in which she threatened to kill a fellow student.
LPD officers interviewed both the student who posted the video on TikTok and the student who was the subject of the alleged threat, said Robin Tillett, a spokesperson for the agency. Officers conducted a threat assessment, including visit to the home of the girl who made the video. No weapons were found, Tillett said.
Though police did not make an arrest, an LPD officer filed a complaint affidavit for a violation of a state law covering written or electronic threats to kill or do bodily injury, Tillett said. The State Attorney’s Office for the 10th Judicial Circuit will review the affidavit to determine if charges will be filed in this case.
The inquiry remains an open investigation, Tillett said.
Citizens Defending Freedom, a political group based in Mulberry, shared the video in a news release sent Friday to The Ledger.
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In the 37-second video, images of four children are shown against the background of a school hallway. The youth on the right speaks throughout, with the audio sped up so that the voice is distorted.
CDF blurred the four faces to protect the children’s privacy, said Peter D’Abrosca, managing director for Judge PR, which provided the news release.
The first on the right, addressing the other student as “Jit,” demands her lunch money. The second girl answers, “Nah, I don’t got to give you nothing.” (“Jit” is slang for a young or inexperienced person.)
After learning that the second girl just transferred to the school, the first says, “Well, let me tell you something, punk. See, I run this school right here. When I ask for your lunch money, you give it to me.”
The exchange is punctuated by comments, apparently represented the two other youths, such as, “Nah, Jit trippin’.”
The video is also punctuated with the sound of an explosion or gunshot as emojis flash over the faces of all four children. At one point, an animated image of what appears to be an oversized water pistol appears in the center of the screen.
“Hey tough guy, chill out. I’m just gonna take it,” the first girl says.
The pistol then moves toward the head of the girl at the left of the screen, and the sound of two gunshots can be heard. The second girl’s image tilts over to the left as a skull is superimposed on her face.
“Nah, Jit got popped in the hallway,” someone says. “That’s crazy.”
CDF, in its news release, said the mother of the girl who had been threatened reported the video to administrators at Blake Academy but “they refused to act.” The mother, identified as Trisha Brown, then pulled her 11-year-old daughter out of school on Tuesday after confirming that the girl who made the video had not been disciplined and was in class that day, the release said.
Brown returned to school two days later, showing a record of a May 31 court date for a hearing in which she would seek a protective order against the girl who made the video, the release said. Brown reported the incident to the school resource officer, who later called to say that Brown was no longer welcome at the school, the release said.
Brown then approached Citizens Defending Freedom, a non-profit formed in 2021 that advocates for conservative causes, such as challenges to books in schools the group considers pornographic. CDF recommended that she report the incident to law enforcement and the Florida Department of Education, the release said.
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After Brown contacted the state agency on Thursday, she was told that the Blake student had been arrested by the Lakeland Police Department, the release said. But Tillett clarified that LPD had not actually made an arrest.
“My daughter has been subjected to violent threats from another student for more than a week, and Blake Academy refused to take any action at all,” Brown said in the release. “The manner in which the school handled this incident is totally unacceptable, and the fact that I had to spend the past week fighting for my daughter’s safety tells me that there is something horribly wrong going on inside the Polk County School District.”
Brown vowed to do “everything in my power to ensure that justice is served to the girl who heinously threatened my daughter’s life.”
Brown could not be reached Friday for further comment.
In an emailed statement, Tillett said LPD interviewed both students.
“The student mentioned in the video did not feel threatened by the video or the student who made the video since they are friends,” Tillett wrote. “We take all incidents of alleged threats seriously and work closely with our school professionals to ensure students have a safe learning environment.”
In a statement posted Friday afternoon, Polk County Public Schools said it was aware of the video, emphasizing that it was created the previous weekend off school grounds, “and thus was not a situation where we would have the authority to handle the matter with school discipline.”
The video was reported Monday to the Blake Academy staff, “who immediately began reviewing the incident and reported it to district staff,” the statement said.
School staff members met with the alleged victim’s parent, who wanted to file charges, the release said. The school’s resource officer assisted her with that process, and LPD conducted its investigation, the release said.
“School staff have also interviewed both students and conducted an investigation to determine if bullying has been occurring,” the statement said. “To this point we have found no evidence that any bullying has taken place during their time together at Blake Academy.”
The district said that Blake’s staff has worked with Brown to make requested changes.
“The parent has returned to the school multiple times this week alleging that Blake Academy and the Lakeland Police Department are ignoring the situation, which is patently false,” the statement said. “The parent’s behavior has escalated to a point of disrupting school operations, which resulted in her being trespassed from campus.”
The district said that the news release from CDF “grossly misrepresents the facts of this situation.” The statement said that the school staff and law enforcement “have been diligent and thorough in their response to this situation.”
“It’s not uncommon for students, especially children of this age, to do foolish things on social media,” the district statement said. “We take all of these incidents seriously and investigate them to determine if there is a credible threat to anyone’s safety.”
The CDF issued an updated release late Friday afternoon, saying that Brown disputed the school district’s version of events. It said that a Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy and a retired deputy who oversees the School Safe Guardian Program in Polk County both told her that the student who made the video had been arrested.
The released said that Blake Academy administrators on Friday offered her daughter a Hope Scholarship to attend a different school.
“Brown believes that this is an attempt on behalf of the school to make the situation go away, rather than dealing with the girl who actually created the problem,” the release said.
Gary White can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7518. Follow on Twitter @garywhite13.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Lakeland PD investigates student after video yields claim of threat