POLK COUNTY, Fla. (CW44 News At 10) - One teacher and 15 students in Polk County are facing multiple charges after a protest broke out at Kathleen Senior High School Monday morning. Officials say 33-year-old Tomaris Hill, a teacher at Kathleen High School, was arrested for being involved in organizing the protest.
Outside Kathleen High School, officials say students were voicing their concerns about the school's administration and at first the protest started peacefully, but officials say eventually it escalated and students were able to get inside school buildings.
Charlene Cooper, a parent at the high school says "They were scared because they were hearing banging on the lockers, and on the locked doors and on the glass and yelling."
This was the scene at Kathleen High School Monday morning as students shouted "Jones gotta go," calling for the principal, Daraford Jones, to step down.
"It ended up being a riot and that's not the way to handle things," said Cooper.
Polk County Sheriff's Office says 15 students are, facing charges including disruption of school function and resisting officer without violence. Cooper has two daughters at Kathleen High School and says she agrees with a peaceful protest, because students tell her teachers are locking students out of classrooms if they are late.
"They are sent to 'choice room' which is in-school suspension and they and they miss that entire class period," said Cooper.
Cooper says it's hard for students to get across campus quickly. She also says her daughters have told her that school leaders aren't going to let girls wear dresses to the homecoming dance.
"She's so upset that she doesn't even want to attend," said Cooper.
Polk County teacher and coach, Rashawd Hines, says the principal was just trying to instill some discipline.
"Allow them to focus on their academics and for all the seniors to go off to college and to pass, but the kids didn't know about that, they just thought they were being treated unfairly," said Hines.
Polk County Superintendent, Fredrick Heid, addressed the protest Monday night.
"Some of the concerns that were originally expressed by students and those represented by one of the adults on campus, were patently false. The building principal did not make decisions about some of these things," said Heid.
That adult Superintendent Heid is talking about is 33-year-old Tomaris Hill, a teacher at the school. Officials say he had posted on Facebook prior to the protest saying things like, "Mr. Jones we don't want you here at Kathleen," then goes on to say "Man leave them kids alone and let them enjoy learning. It's school, not a prison." Officials say Hill was at the protest and has since been arrested. The district is now working with students to hear their concerns and have meetings planned over the next few weeks.
"The principal, the parents, the administrators and superintendent will have to sit down and understand what's in the best interest for these kids," said Hines.
Superintendent Heid says the district is going to have more open communication and help students feel heard and involved.
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