LAND O’ LAKES – Pasco County Schools Superintendent Kurt Browning pleaded with students and parents through television news camera lenses Friday afternoon.
The message wasn’t being delivered for the first time. Chances are, it won’t be the last time, either.
“Quite honestly, I’m tired of meeting with the press or public announcing the foolishness that goes on with the behavior of some of our kids,” Browning said while standing outside of Building 8 of the Pasco County Schools campus in Land O’ Lakes alongside Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco.
“Foolishness” was some of the lightest language Browning used Friday to describe the recent actions of a Fivay High School senior – actions that resulted in the student being placed in handcuffs Oct. 31.
Sheriff’s Office investigators arrested Nicholas Robert Godfrey, 18, after the teen took to Instagram to threaten the life of a Fivay High staff member. According to police reports, Godfrey sent direct messages from the account @fivayfanclub to another Fivay student making the deadly threats. In the message thread, Godfrey wrote, “I need a guy who could kill someone,” while advising that he would pay “$100,000” for the victim’s head. Godfrey added, “No joke, I need him eliminated as soon as possible.”
A search warrant was obtained for the Instagram account @fivayfanclub and investigators found an IP address registered to Godfrey’s New Port Richey residence. The threats were made Oct. 30 and deputies were at Godfrey’s home the next night.
Godfrey admitted to sending the messages, telling deputies he wasn’t serious about going through with putting a hit on the unidentified Fivay employee. According to Pasco Sheriff’s Det. David Dacey, investigators had not yet identified any conflict between Godfrey and the employee.
Serious or not, Godfrey’s decision to post his threats resulted in him being transported to the Pasco County Jail and charged with criminal attempt to solicit/conspire murder, a first-degree felony.
Pasco County Schools and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office have taken a hard-line, zero-tolerance stance against acts of school violence and threats made verbally or online.
“I just want to put it out there that there is going to be zero tolerance,” Nocco said Friday. “If you threaten a member of the school district … we’re going to come hunt you down. We will track you down.
“The very sad part of this whole situation is that when the investigators got (to Godfrey’s home) the parents were shocked because they had no idea. That’s another sad reality of what’s going on.”
Browning repeatedly voiced his frustration and sadness that Godfrey had just “ruined his life with a simple threat on social media,” along with his hope that parents, communities and students will step up to combat these recurring problems.
“I am begging and pleading with parents to step up and step in and help us keep order and keep civility in our schools," he said. "Not just at Fivay but across this district.”
During Friday’s press conference, Browning and Nocco mentioned a spate of fights involving multiple students at Fivay High. Nocco said there were two fights Oct. 24 that resulted in arrests.
“We sent more people than we needed to because we were going to send a message,” Nocco said. “We had our dogs in there, we had our deputies in there. We’re sending a clear message that that school is run by the administration and teachers, not by the students.”
As a result of the fights and Godfrey’s online threats, Nocco reported that Fivay will be issued a second School Resource Officer.
Browning said a meeting’s been set up next week with “some key folks” to try and find solutions to the school’s behavior problems.
“What’s going on at Fivay High School is a direct result of kids not understanding respect, kids not understanding civility, thinking they’ve got to take it to a fight,” Browning said. “That is not how we behave in a civilized society.”
The superintendent said the school district is still determining whether or not Godfrey will be expelled from Fivay High.