Parents Outraged Over Teacher's Alleged "Threatening" Comments Made About Students
Last updated 6/9/2023 at 12:35am
SPRING HILL – Two weeks after alleged threatening comments were made by a Fox Chapel Middle School teacher Ashlee Belle Renczkowski, Principal Carmine Rufa sent a voice text message to parents, advising them of the incident and subsequent investigation. R News learned of the disturbing allegations one day before publishing the details on April 7th, and that didn't sit well with parents. Making things worse, the Hernando County School District (HCSD) attempted to conceal the incident from this reporter, by stating that the allegations were false, and our sources were not credible. The Sheriff's Office was completely silent on the issue, despite numerous attempts for comment and record requests.
The incident began on March 24th, just three days before the mass murder that took place at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee. A reliable source (A law enforcement officer who wished to remain anonymous) contacted R News and explained that a "transgender teacher" at Fox Chapel made threats to shoot her students and then herself. The incident was reported to administrators who counseled Renczkowski and then sent her home. Our source says the School Resource Officer was notified after the fact, who in turn, immediately requested a deputy respond to Renczkowski's home to evaluate her. There are conflicting reports that say the teacher voluntarily surrendered firearms to the deputy, however, another source said there were no firearms at all. We have since confirmed that firearms were voluntarily removed from Renczkowski's home that evening. According to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office (HCSO) public records portal, Renczkowski (formerly Alexander), a relative of HCSO Deputy Michael Renczkowski was served with an Injunction for Protections on March 28th. The details of that injunction are sealed for privacy reasons, but someone who claimed to be speaking on behalf of Renczkowski contacted R News and said a court hearing would be held to determine if she was mentally stable and safe to return to work.
Yesterday, several parents contacted R News and provided a voice text message that was sent by Principal Rufa who stated the following: Good evening parents. This is Principal Rufa. Fox Chapel School administration is aware of allegations made on social media regarding a comment made by one of our teachers [,] leading to several parents reaching out to us with concerns [,] [w]hile the teacher in question did make a comment to colleagues that was concerning [,] school and district follow protocol in conducting a full investigation. At the conclusion of the investigation, staff and law enforcement determined the comment was not an imminent threat to the campus but was instead an expression of frustration at student behavior shared privately to colleagues. As part of any investigation involving staff, the teacher was removed from student contact while the matter was fully reviewed. The teacher has been cleared to return to the classroom. Thank you for your attention to opt out of future messages. Goodbye. Parents received that message at 7p.m. Monday night.
The late notification from school officials did not quell concerns by parents who say, "too little too late." One parent tells R News, "I would have taken my child out of school that day until that teacher was removed permanently." Another stated, "There is no room for error. In light of what happened in Nashville, parents should have been immediately notified and given the choice on what to do with their child."
Parents are also upset with the Sheriff's Office for their part failing to notify the community of the potential threat. Those who reached out to HCSO for an explanation received the following response: 'There is no law enforcement involvement or investigation with regards to the teacher mentioned. If there had been threats made against children or threats to inflict self-harm, there would be a thorough investigation. The school board is evaluating the teacher, but no allegations have been reported for legal investigation." But that's not what Principal Rufa stated in his text. Rufa said law enforcement was involved in the investigation. Additionally, there is an HCSO case number associated with the incident, not to mention the SRO's involvement.
Amid growing concerns, School District spokesperson Karen Jordan finally responded to our request for an explanation into why they were not forthcoming with details into the incident. Jordan stated in an email this morning, "I stand by my reply, Tom. The details (that you attribute to law enforcement) were incorrect and some of that information that was shared
with you is protected under federal law and is not public information. While you are free to ask me any question, I must follow school board policy and privacy law when responding to any inquiry." Essentially, it appears that privacy laws trump notifying the parents of potential threats made against their children by an employee of a school.
In retaliation against R News for reporting news of the incident, the School District blocked this reporter from accessing the District's social media platforms. A blatant violation of the First Amendment. When R News advised the District of the Constitutional Rights violation, they immediately reinstated my account. They claim the reason for the block was because R News violated their community standards, but what they may not be aware of is that we have never commented on their page a single time. The Hernando County Sheriff's Office did the same thing last year, to prevent R News from commenting on their Facebook page. All in an effort to suppress free speech. R News is preparing for legal action against the Sheriff's Office and possibly the school District regarding their actions.
We will continue to follow this and other school related news.