FORT MYERS, Fla. – A faculty member overheard students talking about a girl having sex with a number of boys in a men’s bathroom at a South Fort Myers High School, Lee County School District Public Relations Director Amity Chandler said.
News of the incident-turned-viral began to circulate on the web for nearly a week while the school district has fought to keep information under wraps. Officials have declined to comment in detail in an effort to protect the children involved.
Those efforts have been upsetting against the torrent of curiosity, Lee County School Board Member Pamela LaRiviere said.
“I am upset about all the attention it is getting, to be honest with you. I feel for all of the students involved,” she said.
Five students were suspended and 11 others await disciplinary action, according to sources at the Lee County School District. Despite murmurs online, district officials said not all the boys involved had sex with the girl. But students said videos were shared through text messages, the mobile app Snapchat and on social media, which could land students with child porn charges, attorneys said.
South Fort Myers High School Principal Melissa Layner said she was unable to track down the video that students said was circulated online. But the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said it has recovered new photos that has prompted deputies to reopen the investigation into the incident.
Little information has been shared about the incident. But the district’s stance on keeping details private has backfired, at least with parents who express serious concerns about how the issue is being handled. One parent said her daughter is traumatized after she saw glimpses of video in her classroom.
Principal Layner sent a letter to parents, but the mother still feels the school has not done enough to communicate. She had a barrage of questions that she said school district has left unanswered.
“How could this be? How could this be happening to our school? What is it that is going to be done about this?” she said. “What is it that is going to be done about this? That is what I want to know.”
School board officials were willing to answer, even if only partially, some of those questions Tuesday.
The girl who admits to having sex with multiple boys sent a text message inviting a few boys into a men’s bathroom on school property, LaRiviere said.
Principal Layner wrote in the letter addressed to parents that students were disciplined quickly. That appears to be true for the five students who were suspended. She also said the priority moving forward was student success.
LaRiviere reiterated Tuesday that the district is taking the incident very seriously despite the perception that officials are leaving the sex scandal behind them.
“It is definitely not being swept under the rug,” she said. “It is being taken care of with vigilance.”
There is no word on the punishment the remaining 11 students may face, but with LSCO’s returned involvement into the incident, some students could be facing criminal charges.
Vice Chairman Mary Fischer expressed regret about the incident gaining national attention.
“As a mom and a citizen I thought ‘Really? Do we have to make a big deal out of this?,'” she said.
As far as whether a sex scandal between students could explode in another Lee County school, Fischer, was adamant about there not be a repeat.
“Its not going to happen again at our schools because we are really going to make sure that our supervision is fail-safe,” she said.
South Fort Myers High School is not in LaRiviere nor Fischer’s district; it is District 2 under Lee County School Board Member Jeanne Dozier.