A Florida middle school failed to notify parents after a transgender teacher allegedly threatened to kill himself and other students, multiple parents and advocates tell the Daily Caller.
On March 24, 2023, an officer temporarily assigned to Fox Chapel Middle School in Hernando County as the school resource officer (SRO) responded to a report from Assistant Principal Kerry Thornton and Guidance Counselor Kimberly Walby. Thornton and Walby said that a teacher had made statements about harming himself and possibly shooting students, according to an incident report obtained by Moms for Liberty’s Hernando County chapter.
The report notes that the teacher, who goes by the name of Ashlee, was in the process of transitioning from male to female. The teacher, who was born Alexander Renczkowski, admitted to having “bad thoughts” but denied threatening to shoot students and said “she does not want to harm herself,” according to the report.
According to the report, the Hernando County School District’s mental health coordinator, Sandra Hurst, then conducted a threat assessment on Renczkowski, determining he did not meet the criteria of the Baker Act, a Florida law that allows for involuntary institutionalization of mentally ill individuals. A deputy later collected three firearms and ammunition from Renczkowski’s home, according to the report.
“The investigation revealed that no criminal offense(s) occurred; therefore, no arrest(s) could be made,” a public relations manager for the Hernando County Sheriff’s office told the Caller in a statement. “Further, deputies found that the individual did not, at that moment, meet the required criteria for involuntary commitment under the Baker Act.”
“In an abundance of caution, the HCSO petitioned the court for a temporary Risk Protection Order (RPO). The order was granted immediately. The individual cooperated with law enforcement and immediately turned over all firearms.”
The RPO will expire in a year, according to the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office also confirmed to the Caller that they employ a deputy Michael Renczkowski, who parents say is the teacher’s brother.
Renczkowski did not respond to a request for comment from the Caller.
The teacher was reportedly back in the classroom the next day, and it wouldn’t be until more than a week later that parents would be even notified of the incident. Most found out from a local news story by journalist Tom Lemons, who cited anonymous sources. According to Lemons, the incident took place “three days before the Nashville shooting” and the teacher was sent “home for the day.”
Parents told the Daily Caller that on Thursday, April 13, the teacher was not in the classroom, but the school had not told them why he was absent.
“It took roughly two and a half weeks for them to even say anything to the parents and send some kind of — excuse my language — bullshit recording. And it’s because of a local reporter here, Tom Lemons. He broke the article,” Jim Looker, a parent of a 12-year-old student at the school, told the Caller. (RELATED: Imprisoned Male Serial Killer Who Allegedly Identified As A Woman Up For Parole, Despite Pleas From Victim’s Father)
“I got a pre-recorded call from the school basically confirming that there were some statements made, but they were investigated, and it was determined that the teacher was not a threat,” another parent, Shenna Barrios, said.
Renczkowski was employed at Hernando County Schools in 2019 at a salary of $45,519, according to GovSalaries, five percent higher than median salary in the district and 11 percent higher than the district average.
“The school didn’t say anything. I found out this Easter weekend when I read the article that came out,” Jacqueline Gioiosa, a parent whose eighth grade child was one of Renczkowski’s students, told the Caller.
Gioiosa said she confronted school principal Carmine Rufa about the incident when parents finally received a call from the school about the threat 17 days after the incident occurred.
“So [Rufa] wasn’t happy with me, and I said, ‘Look, I’m trying to keep my composure because I spent my bail money for this month.’ I told him, ‘I am not happy, I am not a happy parent. My daughter is in her class,’ I said, ‘so that makes it more personal for me.'”
Dana Johnson, who has two daughters who attend the school, told the Caller she received more communication from the school when she kept her daughters home on Wednesday due to the teacher’s threats than she did about the incident itself.
“You can try to talk to me and tell me I can get in trouble for not sending my kid when they’re sick and forgetting to send the note in, then why are we not notified as parents when there’s a teacher that has made a statement of this degree?” Johnson said.
Parents told the Caller that they receive alerts if so much as a fire alarm is pulled at the school, or if somebody has a weapon at a nearby park.
“I put some of this together on my own,” another parent, who requested anonymity, told the Caller. “So on March 24, my daughter texted me, ‘We’re on a lockdown. Nobody will shut up.'”
When she contacted the sheriff’s department on Monday morning after Easter weekend, the parent said she was told there was no police involvement in the investigation.
“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 self inflict harm, there would have been a thorough investigation,” police told her. “The school board is evaluating the teacher, but no allegations have been reported for legal investigation.”
She said she was told to contact the Hernando County School District with further questions, but the school board meeting rendered no more answers for concerned parents of middle school students.
“So I go into the school board meeting. And was that a crap show!” the parent said.
“We received absolutely no answers to the questions of, ‘Why weren’t we notified?'” Johnson told the Caller. (RELATED: LGBTQ Group Study Finds That Kids Who ‘Come Out’ Younger Are At Greater Suicide Risk)
Barrios said she was stonewalled when she called the school after learning of the threats.
“So I just want to know. My children attend school there,” she said she told a school official. “I want to know exactly what was said. He informed me that they’re not making statements at this time, so I said, ‘Okay, when will you be making statements because I would like to know.’ He just disconnected the call with me. He hung up,” she said.
Police finally acknowledged the incident in a press release issued Wednesday, the morning after the school board meeting.
“On 03-24-23, the HCSO was notified of, and did investigate, an event at Fox Chapel Middle School,” the release reads. “The investigation revealed that no criminal offense(s) occurred; therefore, no arrest(s) could be made.”
“This is a major safety problem and the district is still trying to downplay it and cover it up,” said former school board candidate Monty Floyd, who obtained the incident report from police Wednesday morning.
“Just like school discipline of a student, once law enforcement has completed the investigation regarding possible criminal activity, evaluated the individual for Baker Act criteria, and determined whether an RPO is appropriate, our involvement is complete,” the sheriff’s office told the Caller. “Employment and/or disciplinary decisions rest solely with the Hernando County School District.”
Renczkowski’s partner, Fawn Renczkowski, is named as a relation in the police incident report, and is also a teacher at the school. According to a now-deleted private Instagram page and multiple parent statements, Fawn identifies as a mermaid. Fawn did not respond to the Caller’s request for comment.
Some parents expressed concern that the transgender identity of the teacher shielded him from disciplinary action.
“They’re trying to cover up. First of all, this is a transgender teacher who they feel maybe if they fire her, or him, that that she might file a lawsuit against the county for … discrimination,” Gioiosa said.
“What’s to say she’s not going to get frustrated again, and especially with all this stuff going on right now. And she’s taking hormonal drugs to change her gender,” another parent added.
“The newest police reports states the teacher just started female hormones. I’m sorry but no one can predict what’s going on in that person’s mind with the changes they are going through,” Amy Pittsley, a concerned parent of a sixth grader, told the Caller.
Parents stressed, however, that the gender identity of the teacher mattered less than the threats made against their children.
“I could [not] care less that this woman is trans,” Barrios said. “At the end of the day, it’s not about what you identify as, it’s the statements that came out of your mouth.” (RELATED: Middle Schoolers Allegedly ‘Bullied’ Peers Into Participating In LGBT ‘Day Of Silence’)
“You know, this person, this individual, whether it’s male or female, made a threat not only to take his life, but those of his students. That’s not acceptable,” Gioiosa said.
Jim Looker, father of a sixth grade son who attends the school, says he will not allow his child to go back to school.
“We have an interview with a private school on Friday,” he told the Caller. “We’re thinking if if he passes the interview, which he will, we’ve already we’ve already started the process. They wanted three letters of recommendation from his prior teachers and they wanted it and sealed envelopes and we have all that. So we have everything that the future principal in the future school is going to need but it’s you know, it’s expensive.”
“A lot of the parents are looking at other avenues,” DePrisco said. “One parent’s going to private school and other one’s trying to go to a different county … And homeschooling, everybody wants to do homeschooling at this point.”
The Hernando County School District and Fox Chapel Middle School did not respond to repeated requests for comment from the Caller.