An interaction between a Florida high school student and two adults responsible for monitoring him quickly escalated when one of the adults, a law enforcement official, threatened to shoot the boy. The incident, which occurred in December, went viral after the teen’s mother shared body cam footage on Facebook.
The nearly 4-minute long video shows 17-year-old William Miller in a pickup truck trying to exit the student parking lot. Miller was trying to leave the River Ridge High School campus in New Port Richey, Fla. in order to go to an orthodontist appointment. As he attempts to leave, he’s blocked in by an unnamed resource officer with the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and school discipline assistant Cindy Bond.
The two adults tell William he is not allowed to leave campus but he responds that he has permission. They counter by saying he is truant.
“If you’re not holding me, then get the hell out of my way,” William tells the two. At about 16 seconds into the video, the student inches his vehicle toward the officer, prompting a violent response.
“You’re gonna get shot you come another f---king foot closer to me,” the officer tells Miller. “You run into me, you’ll get f---king shot…This is my campus, brother.”
Later in the video, Bond, who is white, claims William called her the n-word, but uses the full word. William replies: “I didn’t say that. You’re being hella racist by saying that.”
Nedra Miller, the teen’s mother, told the Tampa Bay Times that her son had a legitimate reason to leave campus. She said she told school officials weeks ahead that her son had an orthodontist appointment. Nedra acknowledged that her son was not supposed to be near the campus that day but he dropped off a friend thinking it would not be an issue.
Bond told William that all he had to do was call his parents to confirm he had a legitimate excuse to leave school. He declined to call his mother, who is a nurse, at work or to give Bond and the officer his reason for leaving the school. She then told him he was suspended for truancy, defying authority and profanity.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, William eventually parked his car and went inside the school. He was initially suspended from December 17 until January 9. But he was later expelled from school and sent off to Harry Schwettman Education Center, an educational program for students who have violated School Board policy, were recommended for expulsion or their behavior pattern has not been improved.
The Pasco County School District spokesperson Linda Cobbe told The North Star that it would not comment on Miller’s punishment, but said the principal “has addressed the assistant’s part in it.” Cobbe did not clarify whether the assistant has faced any disciplinary action.
Nedra told the Tampa Bay Times that Miller is not allowed to go to prom, watch his friends graduate or attend sporting events with his friends.
Amanda Hunter, a press information officer for the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, confirmed to The North Star that the incident is under internal review. Hunter said that the sheriff’s office would not comment on any possible disciplinary action against the officer until the review is completed. There is no criminal complaint against the officer so he is still working at the school, Hunter told the Tampa Bay Times.
Nedra, who declined to comment to The North Star, told the Tampa Bay newspaper that she filed for a hearing to appeal the district’s decision. She said she wants the two adults held accountable for their actions against her child.
“I just feel like if they were all acting like children and my son received that level of discipline, they should, too,” she said. “They should both be removed from their jobs.”
Florida Truancy Law Explained
The state of Florida has a “compulsory education” law that requires all children between the ages of 6 and 18 to attend school. Students aged 16 and older can make a formal filing to indicate their decision to end their academic enrollment.
Parents must justify each absence, which will then be evaluated by the individual school district. Under the law, schools must contact parents for each unexcused absence to determine whether the absence is excused and provide the student the opportunity to make up assigned work if it is.
Students with five unexcused absences within a calendar month or 10 unexcused absences within a 90-calendar-day period will be reported for showing a pattern of nonattendance. Students in Florida are determined to be “habitual truant” when they have 15 or more unexcused absences within 90 calendar days with or without the knowledge or consent of their parent or guardian, according to the Florida Department of Education.
Both parents and children can face punishment for a student’s truancy. Parents can be charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and failing to comply with attendance laws, both of which are misdemeanors and could result in fines, jail time or compulsory counseling.
Truant students can be penalized with more schooling, drug screenings, behavioral therapy, juvenile detention, community service, loss of driving privileges and probation, according to The Umansky Law Firm.
Guns in Florida Schools
In May 2019, Florida passed a controversial law that allows teachers and security guards to carry firearms on school grounds. The law, which was approved by the Florida Legislature, was in response to the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 14 students and three staff members were killed.
Forty-two counties participate in the Guardian Program, which allows teachers to carry firearms. In September 2019, a month before the law took effect, the Miami Herald reported that just 11 school districts opted to arm their teachers. The Herald also reported that the state does not track how many Florida teachers are carrying guns.
The Guardian Program was established as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act in 2018, according to The New York Times. The bill aimed to address gun violence on school campuses.
Participants in the program must pass drug and psychological screenings and complete 144 hours of training. These volunteers receive a $500 stipend to participate in the program, which was named after football coach Aaron Fields, who died shielding students during the massacre.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas.