Parents, students and staff have expressed shock after a 15-year-old girl had sex in a Florida high school bathroom with several boys, authorities say.
The incident, which was recorded on cell phones, occurred after school last Tuesday, May 17, at South Fort Myers High School, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office told the News-Press.
One student, 16-year-old football player William Scott, has been arrested on felony charges, including possession of obscene material and cruelty to child, for allowing a child to engage in a sex act, police say.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Girl Was a Victim of Human Trafficking When She Was 13, Her Mother Says
She spoke out about her daughter’s past trauma after becoming upset about the way the girl had been vilified and bullied on social media as a result of the story.
Megan Estrem, who runs a group, Be the Light, which supports human trafficking victims, said the girl was brought to her for help by her mother when the girl was 13.
“I had heard about a lot about the incident through the news. I heard it and thought there’re some red flags,” said Estrem told the news station. “What’s upsetting about this is this behavior is not uncommon for human trafficking victims.”
The girl had only been at South Fort Myers High School for two weeks when the incident happened.
“She was not equipped to make a stable, rational decision in that situation,” said Estrem.
The girl, who was reported missing last year, has withdrawn from the school district, Fox 4 News reports.
Estrem said the girl has received some treatment in the past, but not enough.
“She did get some help, but it wasn’t specific for what she needed,” said Estrem. “What happens is not to go straight to shaming and sharing this, but find out there all facts, what happened, why did she do this, who else was involved and what was their role. She needs to be prayed for and encroached, not degraded and discouraged.”
2. 25 Boys Were Seen Entering the Bathroom & Video of the Incident Was Posted to Snapchat
The investigation into the incident began on May 18. A deputy reviewed security camera footage which he says showed 25 boys entering the bathroom during the time that the girl was inside, the News-Press reports.
Principal Melissa Layner told the newspaper she spoke with the girl, who “confirmed that she had sex with a number of willing males.”
Authorities did not say how many of the boys had sex with the girl.
“I just don’t see how that could’ve happened because there is so much security in there,” student Erin Bollinger told WINK-TV. “Like the teachers are really on top of all of that.”
The incident was recorded by at least one of the boys inside the bathroom, and a cell phone was seized by police as evidence, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said.
One of the videos was posted to Snapchat, and a saved version eventually leaked to social media.
“I’ve just heard that they were all filming it and I just think it’s really wrong. That shouldn’t have happened. They locked themselves into the bathroom,” Lisa Purnell, who was picking up a student at the school, told WBBH-TV.
The graphic video, showing the girl engaging in multiple sex acts with several boys, made its way to Twitter, where it was shared by thousands, including one account with 149,000 followers, @lil_boosie4, which has since been suspended by Twitter.
“She said mom this girl head was in the toilet bowl and she looked like she was dying and there were a whole bunch of guys in there taking turns with her. It is child porn and it is happening right here in front of our face in front of our children’s face,” a mother, who asked not to be identified, told WINK-TV.
“I heard a video was around but I never really saw it or anything. It just like circulated around,” student Petislin Cadeau told WFTX-TV.
Read more about the South Fort Myers sex video in Spanish at AhoraMismo.com:
3. Many of the Students Involved Were Disciplined by the School & Police Are Still Investigating
The girl’s mother told the Lee County Sheriff’s Office that she and her daughter do not want to press charges.
Last week, the sheriff’s office said it would not be investigating, but on Monday, it told WINK-TV that it would be looking into the incident, along with the Department of Children and Families.
It is not clear if anyone could still be charged criminally.
Defense Attorney Lance Dunford told WINK-TV that teens who distributed the videos and images taken during the incident could face child pornography charges and jail time, saying the charge is a felony.
“You have someone depicted in the video or pictures that is not over the age of 18 she is a minor,” he told the news station. “Parents, talk to your teenagers about these things. This is a big deal.”
The school’s principal said in a letter to parents that the students involved have been disciplined. But a school district spokesperson would not say how many students were punished or what the discipline they received was.
“This incident involves student discipline as well as a law enforcement investigation. The district has addressed every question that we can address without violating students’ rights to privacy,” school district spokeswoman Amity Chandler told WINK. “We dealt with student discipline surrounding this incident this week quickly and we are focused on student success today.”
Sixteen students were disciplined, the school district says.
4. Students Say Many of the Boys Involved Are Members of the School’s Football Team
Students have said that many of the boys involved in the incident are members of South Fort Myers High School’s football team.
“A bunch of football players went into a room with a girl and had sex with her, and a bunch of the football players were suspended,” student Alex Bailey, a student told WBBH-TV. “So we might not have a football team this year.”
According to the News-Press, the incident happened between 1:47 to 2:30 p.m., at a time after classes when students participating in extracurricular activities , including athletics, take part in a study hall.
“I think parents understand that we cannot control the behaviors of every student, and when students enter campus, they are entering into a relationship with school administrators where they are expected to adhere to some norms and some rules,” district spokeswoman Amity Chandler told the newspaper. “And these students did not do that.”
“High schools,” she said, “have all sorts of after-school activities — sports, clubs, tutoring.”
5. The School’s Principal Says Students Will ‘Have Experiences Where They Will Learn From Mistakes’ as Part of Their ‘High School Journey’
South Fort Myers Principal Melissa Layner sent a letter to parents about the incident.
In the letter, Layner said, “Our school community has nearly 2,000 students. As part of their high school journey, our students will have the opportunity to experience great personal successes and they will also have experiences where they will learn from mistakes.”
You can read the full letter below:
This is Melissa Layner, Principal at South Ft. Myers High School. If you would, please take a moment to listen to this message.
You have undoubtedly heard media reports of an incident that has occurred with some of our students this week.
Because the details of the incident are sensitive in nature and involve student discipline, I am unable to discuss them with the media or other parents.
Regrettably, the incident is being discussed heavily on social and news media. This is difficult to hear of as a Principal, and It is undoubtedly difficult for the students involved.
Our school community has nearly 2,000 students. As part of their high school journey, our students will have the opportunity to experience great personal successes and they will also have experiences where they will learn from mistakes.
The incident this week should not be a reflection on our combined efforts, administration, students, and teachers , to keep our building and students secure and safe. Providing our students cooperate with the expectations articulated to them each day, our school is a safe place for student learning and after school activities.
We dealt with student discipline surrounding this incident this week quickly and we are focused on student success today.
Thank you for all that you and your student do to support our school.
No staff members have been disciplined, but some parents say they should be held accountable.
“That is unbelievable. I can’t believe it. It’s terrible,” parent Kevin Ware told WBBH-TV. “We need to know what was going on during school? Why are the kids out? Were they supposed to be in class? Where were the teachers? A thorough investigation needs to be done.”