Family speaks out after student attacked, fight videos spread

Reporter: Peter Fleischer
Published: Updated:

Trouble in the classroom and violence in the halls. A WINK News exclusive investigation has discovered serious issues in one southwest Florida community.

Whether she’s showing off artwork or describing her personality, Danielle Kicker gets a big smile on her face when asked to describe her daughter Patricia.

“She loves everybody, she has the biggest heart,” Kicker beams. “She doesn’t like it when people are upset around her.”

Madonna Lewis, Patricia’s grandmother, does the same when she thinks about Patricia starting school in Lehigh Acres barely two years ago.

“She was so excited,” Lewis remembers. “Of course it’s scary at a new school, but she was so excited.”

Patricia was a sixth grade student at Veteran’s Park Academy earlier this year when she started to try to avoid going to school.

Her family realized she was being bullied and began to fear for her safety. Eventually, at her breaking point, Kicker says she went to the school herself, and spoke with an administrator.

“I said this bullying has to stop,” Kicker explains “This little girl doesn’t want to come to school… She promised me she was in good hands. And then that day, this all happened.”

12 year old Patricia was not in good hands. Shortly after her mother dropped her off, she was assaulted in a bathroom in front of a crowd of other students.

“Nobody protected her. No one did. How can you hear all that noise and see all those children running,” Lewis asks. “Where are the adults? Where are all the adults here?”

The district school board member for Lehigh Acres – Armor Persons – knows about the attack on Patricia. While he couldn’t explain why she wasn’t protected that day, he says school employees are going through new training this summer, to identify and handle disruptive situations.

“All the administration is taking courses to make sure everything is reported, from bullying to everything else,” Persons assured. “It could be more faculty toward the issue or more training or whatever, then that’s what we’ll do.”

But the new training doesn’t help with damage that has already been done. Patricia came home battered, and her family is heartbroken.

“It is absolutely the worst thing that I’ve ever had to go through,” Kicker admits through tears. “It was horrible! You didn’t know what to do. You didn’t know how to take the pain away.”

Patricia left Veteran’s after the January attack, but students at her new school had seen the viral video and began bullying her too. Eventually, she left Florida to live with extended family in Missouri.

“They turned their backs on her,” Kicker says.
She had no one! Lee County School District failed.”

Patricia’s attack is one of dozens of fights WINK News observed on social media in recent months. Nearly all of them from schools located in Lehigh Acres.

We even found several social media pages dedicated solely to posting fights. Persons has seen the fight videos and the pages. He wants to stop the problem at its source.

“I personally think there should be no cell phones at school,” Persons explains. “It is a problem, and parents seem to be very reluctant to give up the cell phones. I think they should be taken when the kids arrive at school.”

The videos from this past year seem to show Lehigh schools that struggle with disciplinary issues, where violent incidents are common.

“Crime, violence and disruptive behaviors” in public schools are tracked using “the School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting system” or SESIR.

There are 26 types of incidents graded from Level 1 – the most serious– to Level 4 – the least serious.

Offenses range from battery and sexual assault to simple harassment, but all “represent serious breaches of the student code of conduct.”

WINK News sorted through the most recent available data from the 2021-2022 school year and found that – on average – Lehigh Acres schools dealt with double the SESIR incidents that other Lee County schools did. Of the Lehigh incidents, 170 were physical attacks making up 18 percent.

“The east zone in general has kind of become the stepchild,” admits former Lee County School board member Gwyn Gittens. “And people have said that.”

Gittens represented the Lehigh Area during her time on the board. She taught there for years and still lives there. She’s seen the rise in disciplinary issues, and has ideas about what’s fueling them.

“If Johnny can’t read, he’s going to act out. Because if he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t want to be embarrassed or called out,” Gittens says. “Discipline and achievement, academic, is hand in hand.”

Persons agrees, and says the district is trying to correct Lehigh’s shortcomings.

“There are differences in the amount of money that was spent in the Lehigh area by the district over the years, it’s been lacking to say the least,” Persons admits. “Lehigh is probably the fastest growing area in Lee County. So, you’re playing catch up. Once that stops, I think we’re on the road to that, I think we’ll even out much better.”

If behavioral issues are fueled by struggles in the classroom, data could help explain some issues.

WINK News went through the numbers for four standardized tests from the most recent data available. Out of every school located in Lehigh Acres, only one scored above Lee Schools average in mean scale score, or Level 3 achievement.

“The impression that the east zone is the bottom of the barrel for educators has got to be fixed,” Gittens insists. “That’s the part that the district needs to do.”

Meanwhile, Patricia is supposed to start 7th grade in the fall. Her family is still not sure where she’ll go to school.
“I have to ensure her that I can find a safe place for her to actually feel safe every day,” Kicker says. “I just want her to come home. I want her to have a safe place to come.”

Something no young child should ever have to worry about.

Lee County is not the only school district that struggles with student bullying. Click the links below to access anti-bullying resources around southwest Florida.

Lee Schools bullying:

Charlotte Schools bullying:

Collier Schools bullying:

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