Florida teacher placed on leave after telling students he'd 'be the best school shooter'
A Florida high school teacher was placed on administrative leave after reportedly bragging to students on Aug 13 that he would make a great school shooter and describing ways he would go about the violent act.
Parents of students at Lakeland Senior High School, in Lakeland Florida, received an alert that math teacher, Keith Cook, 51, had been placed under a risk protection order (RPO) on Wednesday after he remarked he would "be the best school shooter" with a "1,000 person body count" during a lockdown drill. The RPO allows police to confiscate any weapons a suspect may have. They searched his car and home and found no weapons.
“If we conduct an investigation and we find the person is dangerous to themselves or someone else, i.e. with a firearm, we can petition the court we can't unilaterally do this and say, 'Hey, we need a timeout.' The court can give us a temporary risk protection order,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told Fox 13.
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"Being a former Marine he should be looked at as the person who will protect the students, and not make them question whether their teacher is looking to harm them," Detective Justin Conatser wrote in his report.
16 students were interviewed by police about Cook's remarks, where they say he told them if he was a school shooter he'd plant improvised explosive devices (IEDs), "fire a couple [of] rounds and wait for everyone to hide, then press a button and boom, everyone would die," according to The Ledger.
Another student told police that Cook told them he "would put a bomb in the corner and put nails in it for shrapnel."
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Cook, who has no criminal history, is currently on administrative leave while the school district investigates the case. Superintendent of Polk County School District, Jacqueline M. Byrd says they are "cooperating fully with the law enforcement investigation as well as conducting our own internal investigation."
"Every day, Polk County Public Schools is entrusted with the lives of more than 105,000 precious children. As superintendent, I will do everything I can to protect every single one of them," Byrd said. "Parents and students should be assured that we take any potential threat against our students and schools seriously. Student safety is and always will be paramount within our school district."
An automated message was sent to parents on Wednesday to let them know of the situation and tell them their children were safe.
“In my opinion, I feel like that was not a good thing to say in front of children due to the many situations from these problems,” one student wrote, according to The Ledger. “I do not know if he is being serious or joking, but it should not be said in front of children.”
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Cook is scheduled to appear in court on August 30 for a hearing on a final risk protection order.