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1,000 Ocala Students Miss School After Social Media Posts Cause Racial Tension

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About 1,000 students did not attend classes Monday at West Port High School in Ocala after threats of violence appeared over the weekend on social media.

Despite the added presence of 10 Ocala Police Department officers on campus, many of the 2,600 students enrolled at the high school stayed home, said Marion County School spokesman Kevin Christian.

It turned out to be a quiet day.

“I wouldn’t say anything eventful happened here aside from all the media attention,” Christian said. “Unfortunately, social media gives people the platform to say whatever they want to say without any accountability.”

The concerns of violence came after an incident Thursday, where three West Port High School students began waving a Confederate flag and taunting other students. One student, Christian said, did throw a punch.

Over the weekend, some students began posting on social media about a shooting that would happen Monday.

Christian said three students would be disciplined for intentionally disrupting the school.

“They’re not being disciplined for having the Confederate flag,” Christian said. “They’re being disciplined for what they did with the Confederate flag.”

Chrishonda Dennison plans to keep her 17-year-old son, Davonte, at home indefinitely until she knows the threat has been quelled. She said Davonte, a junior, asked her for permission to stay home Sunday night and showed her a Facebook post.

“I immediately told my son, ‘You will stay home from school,'” Dennison said.

She plans to visit the school Tuesday to learn more information, she said.

Another parent, Portia Torres, went to the school in person after she saw a Facebook post at about 1:30 a.m. Monday morning.

Torres was unhappy with the lack of communication, and felt the responses given by the school’s administration to her questions felt rehearsed, she said.

“I just feel like they’re trying to sweep it under the rug instead of bringing it to light, and making the parents reassured that their children are safe at school,” Torres said.

Her daughter, whom Torres declined to name, is a sophomore at West Port High School. But after the threats, Torres said she and her husband plan on either transferring their daughter to Forest High School or homeschooling her.

“I’m outraged,” Torres said. “My children go to school and they’re supposed to feel safe… and they don’t feel safe right now.”

About Emily Cochrane

Emily is a reporter who can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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