Florida high school students taped harassing Gay Straight Alliance members, stomping on Pride flags

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ST. JOHNS, Fla. – A Florida school district is admonishing a group of Bartram Trail High School students accused of harassing classmates in the Gay Straight Alliance club by yelling homophobic slurs and stomping on Pride flags on campus.

The incident, which was captured on video and quickly shared across social media, set off a firestorm by school parents, who are calling what they view as a hate crime "terrifying" and "scary."

Cellphone footage shows students outside the school yelling anti-gay and anti-transgender statements including “There’s only two genders… ” and, "Y'all have a mental illness" repeatedly at another group of students.

Parents have turned the videos over to police.

The school district has been quick to respond, condemning students' actions.

Students change classes at Bartram Trail High School in March 2020.
Students change classes at Bartram Trail High School in March 2020.

"This behavior is not acceptable and is not indicative of the culture and students at BTHS," district spokeswoman Christina Langston said in a statement emailed to The St. Augustine Record, part of the USA TODAY network, Monday morning. "It is very disappointing that these students handled themselves in this way."

Langston said the school district's investigation began Friday and continued Monday, with the cooperation of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office's youth resource deputy division.

"The students involved will receive consequences in accordance with our student code of conduct," Langston said.

Those consequences, she said, could range from potential school suspension to placement in an alternative school, as well as a mental health referral or criminal prosecution.

According to Langston, the high school held a fair during lunch periods Friday where more than 60 school-sponsored clubs set up tables to share information about their activities.

While the incident didn't take place at that event, Langston said, a group of students apparently chose to assemble on their own at dismissal time to protest the GSA's activities.

In one of the videos, students can be seen waving makeshift Confederate flags, taunting classmates associated with the GSA – including kicking and smashing a Pride flag –and laughing in the background.

Nancy Tray, a Bartram Trail parent, said like others, she found the incident disturbing.

"I think it's really upsetting," Tray said Monday in a phone interview with The Record. "I think anyone who sees something like this going on at their child's school is going to be concerned. Everyone wants their child to be part of a school community that has acceptance and respect, and I don't think that this video demonstrates that."

This article originally appeared on St. Augustine Record: Florida students caught on video in homophobic bullying incident