Parent Pick-Up Turns into Armed Stand-off at Florida School as Community Decries Racial Profiling and Surging Gun Violence
Florida school officials announced this week an initiative to address gun violence in their schools after a rash of gun-related
Florida school officials announced this week an initiative to address gun violence in their schools after a rash of gun-related incidents in Leon County Schools.
The latest incident, just days old, is at the center of what some parents are calling racial profiling and injustice that has been a part of the Florida school system for far too long.
A Florida charter school was the site of an armed stand-off on Friday, December 2. It allegedly started when a parent whose child attends the school went to the office to collect his child.
It ended with an armed employee pointing a gun directly at the parent’s face in front of worried parents and onlooking children as the parent backed away before eventually being escorted away by school officials.
It’s a disturbing incident that could be otherwise unremarkable, if not for the fact that the Capital city of Florida, Tallahassee, has been dealing with a rash of gun violence both in the city and within the school system. Many locals are decrying what happened on Friday as an incident of racial profiling, and calling for the school to take action.
Others call the employee’s actions justified and the parent “belligerent.”
Officials this week announced an initiative to address the gun violence in their schools, but as reactions to Friday’s incident show, it’s a complex issue with many perspectives and no easy answers.
Video Captures an Armed Stand-Off at Tallahassee School
At Tallahassee School of Math & Science, there are no school resource officers. Instead, there are “guardians” – armed and trained employees who serve in basically the same capacity.
According to a local news report, the incident started when a parent of a child attending TSMS approached a teacher who was working outside as a crossing guard, and allegedly began questioning the teacher about the school guardian.
The parent, Jimmy Toribio-Batista, is a law enforcement officer with the Florida Department of Financial services, and was allegedly legally carrying a concealed weapon at the time.
Toribio-Batista did not identify himself as an officer, according to the Tallahassee Democrat, and began asking things about the guardian such as where he was, what his job duties were, and whether the guardian has arresting authority.
According to TD, the guardian checked with front desk staff and asked if they recognized Toribio-Batista, to which they allegedly replied that they did not.
A report of the incident says that when the guardian approached Toribio-Batista, “he observed what appeared to be a bulge protruding from the male’s right side appendix area in what he believed to be a firearm concealed under his clothing.”
Toribio-Batista did not identify himself and allegedly did not carrying his LEO identification on him as he then approached the school. According to reports, the guardian tried to bar his entry from the school at which point Toribio-Batista allegedly pushed him down.
A video captures the aftermath.
In the video, shared to social media by the Instagram account @wuzhadnintally, the involved men can be seen standing in front of the school entrance.
By the time the video starts playing, the guardian is already pointing a gun at Toribio-Batista.
A man assumed to be Toribio-Batista can be heard yelling, “that is the second time he’s touched me. And you are pointing a gun in my face.” He adds, “I was just standing waiting for my daughter, and this one told me he’s a cop.”
A school official appears to attempt to deescalate the situation as Toribio-Batista explains his side of the story. The guardian follows Toribio-Batista’s every move with the gun drawn and aimed at his head.
The official says something unintelligible, and Toribio-Batista replies, “ok but why does he have the right to just approach me? He’s been staring at me since I got out of my truck.” He continues, “He’s been staring at me since I got out of my truck. And now he pulls a gun on me?”
In another video shared in the same post, Toribio-Batista allows himself to be led away by another person.
The guardian holsters his gun at that point, and follows closely behind. Toribio-Batista whirls on him, “you pointed a gun in my face. Get the hell away from me. Get away from me. Get away from me now. You told me you’re a cop. Don’t tell me to stop. You pointed a gun in my d— face!” he yells.
Someone off-screen urges parents and witnesses standing by to usher the watching kids away from the incident, saying, “We don’t want our babies to see all this.”
In the wake of the incident, many parents said that their children were scared to return to school.
The school quickly released a statement, but it did not provide many answers.
The statement reads in part, “There was a situation today where a parent was disgruntled during dismissal. Our security team reported to the scene and contained the matter.” They explain that the school was locked down until the situation was contained, adding “The matter was swiftly handled, and school resumed normal operation promptly after.” The statement from principal Ahmet T. Temel concludes, “We are thankful for our staff’s prompt response to the situation.”
TSMS opted to provide support personnel in the form of mental health counselors on Monday as the school reopened normally.
A request for incident reports and arrest records related to the incident was tendered by CELEB to the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, but the records were heavily redacted due to Toribio-Batista’s employment as a law enforcement officer. The report read in part, “Jimmy was arrested for Battery On A School Official And Disrupting Or Interfering With The Lawful Administration Of A School.”
Leon County Schools directed all questions about the incident to Tallahassee School of Math and Sciences. A representative for the school system wrote on their social media early Tuesday, “Good morning: TSMAS is a charter school and not an LCS school. Please reach out to them for more information.”
Parents Tell a Different Story
While the school’s statements paint one picture, parent comments under video of the incident paint another entirely.
Multiple comments alluded to the idea that the guardian involved is known for acting aggressively, and some suggested racial profiling was at play. Others allege that the school has a problem with racism.
One user commented, “Throw whole damn school away! So happy I withdrew my son when I did. Think this is crazy? You should see how they ‘interrogate’ students. SMH 🗑️.”
Another wrote, “The crazy thing is I have been telling people this safety officer was gonna do this. He just has that look. He been waiting his entire life for this moment.”
Another called for the guardian to be removed, adding, “He obviously need more training as an armed security officer or his license taken away. The day before this incident, he pulled my door handle, opened my door, and demanded that i move my car. I asked him not to pull my door and to politely knock if he wanted my attention. He wanted to argue with me and i politely informed him of the law and my rights. I’m also armed and no different from him.”
An alleged former student also wrote, “I must say as a former student at tsms, this video does not surprise me atall. While I attended the school there were multiple cases of teachers inappropriately touching students and the school would cover them up to the best of their ability. The head teacher (seen walking the man away from security) is a terrible man who cares not for your child’s education but only about the reach of your wallets. If your child goes to this school, please ask them if they want to be at that school. No kid should be treated the way I was at that school and no parent should have to fear for their lives when they go to pick their child up. Worst. School. Ever.”
Other former students commented that they also were not surprised by the video given their experience at the school.
Another user wrote, “Tallahassee School of Math and Science IS WELL AWARE OF THEIR RACIST EMPLOYEES- EVEN THOSE WHO ARE ‘RESOURCE OFFICERS’ put there from THE SHERIFFS OFFICE! Nothin will happen to their comrade in supremacy, the school is going to play dumb and deny wrong doing, and the parent WHO IS THE VICTIM, ‘might’ get a funky ass apology💯” and added the hashtag “#LAWSUIT.”
Parents in the community are demanding answers and accountability for the guardian, who was reportedly still on the job this week. But the problem in Tallahassee goes well beyond a single school and single guardian.
Tallahassee’s Trouble with Gun Violence in Schools and Around the Community
Tallahassee is the capital of Florida. The stomping grounds of popular rising GOP star Ron DeSantis, it’s one of the few Florida cities you don’t often see making headlines.
And there could be a reason for that.
Tallahassee’s gun violence and violent crime rate having been rising in recent years. It’s a bad look for a majority Republican state trying to brand themselves as proponents of law and order when their own capital city is overrun with violence.
And the schools are reflecting that rise in violence.
It’s evident everywhere in the city. On the Leon County Sheriff’s Office website, the front page of press releases reveals 1 in 4 links relate to school violence, most involving guns on campus.
A local website called Tallahassee Reports wrote in September that gun violence in the Florida capital city was up 83% since 2018.
That number comes directly from City of Tallahassee resources.
In 2021, the Census showed that Tallahassee has a population of just under 200,000.
Neighborhood Scout found that Tallahassee had a violent crime rate of 7.8 per 1,000 residents.
To put that into perspective: Portland, a city with more than three times the population of Tallahassee and just over 1.5 times the size, and which is often maligned for being a violent and dangerous place, only has a violent crime rate of 5.3 per 1,000 residents.
So why is no one talking about the rise in violent crime in a red state’s capital city?
Politics likely play a large role in the lack of national news reports.
LCS Announces Plans to Help Curb Rash of Gun Violence in Schools
While the city has issued a number of statements and plans to try to curb gun violence, most of them focus on minority communities.
Tallahassee is a highly stratified and racially segregated city, and lawmakers and police have treated the high-minority areas as the greatest aggressors.
But gun violence incidents are popping up all over the city, and addressing it as a problem among minorities only and among young and wild teens does the city a great disservice.
Nonetheless, Leon County Schools recently announced an initiative to battle the rise in gun violence in area high schools.
Among plans include random patrols of weapon-sniffing dogs and officers in classrooms, handheld magnometers and an anonymous tip line for people to call in concerns.
But the school is using a bucket to bail out a sinking cargo ship in a city struggling to stem the tide. Police in the city are seen by residents as reactive and many are accused of racism.
The city received some small publicity in 2020 after Tony McDade, a Black trans man, was shot and killed by police. And of course Tallahassee was infamously the scene of a mass shooting in a yoga studio in 2018 which killed two women and injured several others. This fall, a shooting on a popular city street left eight injured.
The city recently launched a task force to combat gun violence in Tallahassee. The task force, crafted with the City Commission’s guidance, includes goals to create:
- “City-wide prayer services in neighborhoods where violent crimes have occurred.
- Developing a military boot camp targeting “at-risk youth” as an alternative to jail time.
- Providing jobs, affordable housing and training to low income families.”
Community trust towards police simply isn’t there, and the city seems lost as to how to reach community members who are committing these crimes. As the gun violence in the city escalates, local students face a similar growing threat in their classrooms.
Both Florida school officials and parents are hoping that new initiatives will put their kids’ education and safety in the crosshairs of 2023.