ONGOING Matt Gaetz, who is under Federal investigation for statutory rape and sex trafficking of a minor, will be speaking at a high school near OOP next week, OOP is doing their best to stop this from happening, and reddit is helping.
Trigger Warnings: past and potential child sexual abuse, statutory rape, sex trafficking of a minor
Matt Gaetz will be speaking at a high school near me next week. Below is the email that I sent the superintendent. All I have are my vote and my voice, it's past time I start utilizing both.
I would like to voice my concern about the upcoming "Academy Night" at Niceville High School. As I understand it, this is an informational meeting where students interested in the service academies can meet with Matt Gaetz. I understand that in order to apply for service academies, students need a nomination from their representative, senator, or the vice president. The students NEED his endorsement, and there is nothing that your office can do about that, which again, I fully understand.
Matt Gaetz is under federal investigation for having sex with a 17 year old girl (the news keeps calling this sex with a minor. In Florida, the age of consent is 18, so this isn't just "sex with a minor". That's rape.) and paying for her to travel across state lines, violating sex-trafficking laws.
It is absolutely vile that the school system would invite someone currently under investigation for rape and sex-trafficking into the school to speak to 17 year old girls and put them in a position where they have to ask him for a favor. This investigation has been ongoing for a long time, so the county has had plenty of time to come up with an alternative to allowing him to speak at the school. Any information he needs to give out can easily be done via email, or even a Zoom call with interested students and their parents.
It seems to me that the school system should not allow someone under investigation for sex with minors anywhere near a school, if for no other reason than out of an abundance of caution. Instead, however, you are quite literally giving him access to potential new victims, and directing them to ask him for something. I would think that the safety of students would be a top priority for Okaloosa County, but this decision leads me to believe otherwise. If a teacher is under federal investigation for sex with a student, does that teacher stay in the classroom teaching while the investigation is ongoing? I’m fairly certain I know the answer.
Thank you for taking these concerns into consideration.
Update - I sent the email to the superintendent and the school board. The only response I’ve gotten is from one school board member. All she said was that she’d follow up. Several people have been sending emails, and other people have been getting responses. This is what one woman posted about it on Facebook: The superintendent called me after he received my email. He said that Gaetz does this event every year. It looks like it will continue to be held at Niceville High, with Gaetz as the presenter. Chambers told me that he spoke with Gaetz and was reassured that no agenda would be pushed, and there would be no speech, he would simply be handing out the assignments to students.”
Again, this is not a response that I personally got, just one that I heard about.
This is not an acceptable response. Gaetz speaking to the students individually is worse than him giving a speech. At least with a speech, everyone can hear what is being said. Instead, he'll be interacting with the students one on one. Also, just because Gaetz has always done the event doesn’t mean that it can’t and shouldn’t be changed. I’ll be sending a follow-up email tonight. I'm going to suggest that if the superintendent refuses to cancel, at the least, he can require parents' attendance.
I encourage anyone that feels compelled to send an email as well to do so. I’m not going to post contact info, but it’s easily accessible on the Okaloosa County School District site.
Finally, I'd like to thank everybody for the amazing comments and messages and awards. I was so nervous to post that, and everybody was just so encouraging, so thank you again, so so so much. It has done a lot to encourage me to keep going.
I wrote a follow-up email this morning and sent it to the superintendent and copied the school board. I included a link the first post, and let them know that it had gotten almost 3 million views, and the overwhelming majority of the comments agreed with me. I suggested that they take a look at some of your comments and realize that this is a serious issue. Then I asked what the county’s protocol is if a teacher is under investigation for having sex with a student – is that teacher allowed to remain in the classroom? I also asked at what point does the school/county become liable if Gaetz meets his next “girlfriend” at an event like this, and the county did nothing to prevent it? I mentioned that I had not heard from anyone, but that I was aware that Mr. Chambers (the superintendent) had been responding to others, and that the gist of his response seems to be shrugging the whole thing off. I ended with “I don't have a child in the school system, but I am a taxpayer and a voter. I've been in contact with a reporter from Newsweek, and I have no intention of dropping this.”
A few hours later, I got a call from the superintendent. I’m not gonna lie, this is so far out of my wheelhouse. I was so nervous. I knew I would be posting an update, so I wanted to record the conversation just to make sure I accurately quoted him. I asked if I could record the call, and he said he’d rather not, that he just wanted to have a conversation. I assume it was for the same reason that he’s responding to emails with phone calls in the first place – to not have a record of what he has said. He gave me the same spiel he’s giving everybody else. It’s not his event, he’ll be there, most of the parents will be in attendance, blah blah blah. I let him know that it’s at a school, so ultimately it IS his event. He did agree with that. He started by saying that it’s an investigation and there were no charges or arrests. I asked if they would wait for charges to be filed and an arrest to be made if it were a teacher. Would that teacher still be in the classroom? He said no, they would be put on administrative leave. I asked what the difference was and he paused and said “you would win that argument” but didn’t go any further. I wish I would have pushed him more on that.
He did try to tell me that that he wasn't going to be pushing a political agenda. I shut that down and said that that was not the issue. The issue is putting teenagers in front of a known predator.
I asked about what the school’s liability would be if it turned out Gaetz was guilty and he had been using these events to meet high school girls. He said he didn’t think that would happen, which leads me to believe he doesn’t believe the allegations. When we had discussed the process for what happens when a teacher is suspected of having sex with a student, he had said the sheriff’s office would conduct an investigation. I reminded him that it’s not the school or the county or the sheriff’s office that’s investigating Matt Gaetz, that it’s the federal government, and that it's real and it’s serious. I also pointed out that Gaetz’s cohort has already pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing, which has been delayed because he’s fully cooperating in the investigation into Gaetz
He said that the event was an important opportunity for the students. I agreed, and said that getting the chance to get facetime with their congressman is a huge opportunity for students, but that their safety was more important. I suggested that if he wouldn’t cancel, then the least he could do would be to require parents’ attendance. He said that wasn’t something he considered. I’m sure he’s still not considering it, but at least it is hopefully planting ideas in his head that this is ultimately his responsibility, and there ARE options. I also suggested permission slips or waivers. At least make them acknowledge that he’s a creep (allegedly).
The superintendent said that he IS getting a bunch of calls and emails, including a call from the New York Times, so that’s exciting. Hopefully if we just keep it up, they school district will come to their senses. As one commenter said “god, the bar is just so low”. We’re not asking for much, just that you don’t serve up teenage girls to an accused pedophile on a platter.
Anyway, I will say I’m proud of myself for standing my ground and not letting the superintendent shirk responsibility. He kept saying it wasn’t the school’s event, so I kept pointing out that it didn’t matter whose event it was, it’s happening at the school, and he is in charge of the schools. I was relatively articulate and stood my ground, so that felt good.
At this point, I’m in too deep to just drop it. I think I actually told him that too, now that I think about it. So I’m trying to get this all out there as much as I can. All but one of the board members are up for re-election on August 23rd. I haven’t heard from any of them except for one email from one of them that she would follow up, and then nothing. So I sent my post to all their opponents in the election and told them that it might be a good opportunity to blast the incumbent for inaction. I feel like there’s definitely traction, and a tiny possibility that MAYBE we can get something changed.
This has been a really weird couple of days. It’s been incredibly nerve-wracking, but also, it feels incredible! I highly recommend everybody tries getting involved. Everybody’s comments and messages have really been so encouraging so thank you all for that.
The superintendent is getting your calls and emails, so please keep it up, ESPECIALLY if there is anybody in here that lives in Okaloosa County! Academy Night is scheduled for Tuesday, so we have until then to get it canceled. Thanks Reddit!
Edit to add Top comment from OOP to help clear something up:
This is fantastic and very well written. Also, as a grad of a federal service academy, I never actually met with any of the Congress people to whom I applied for my service academy nomination. It is not at all necessary for them to meet him in person. Just validating your premise here.
Reminder - I am not the original poster
E: I appreciate the awards, but please, if you're going to spend some money today, consider looking up an organisation and/or shelter that supports survivors of sex trafficking near you, or if you want to keep it more local to the post, I looked up a couple in Florida: Kristi house and
Naples shelter (I did check both on Charity Navigator and they scored high, but I've had a comment saying the second has mistreated both staff and clients, so maybe not them).
Edit again: just to point out there is a comment near/at the top here that contains the relevant contact information for those involved if anyone is interested, and also this comment from OOP with link to a tweet by Matt Gaetz saying he and Marcus Chambers are friends.