Government agencies are refusing to release basic public records about Omar Mateen and the deadly Orlando shootings.
In the days after the nightclub attack, news gatherers across the country who requested documents about the shooter and the police response, and have been told many of those records -— even those created years before the killings — are confidential because they are part of an official investigation....
06/13/16 Public Safety
PORT ST. LUCIE — Hours before Omar Mateen attacked an Orlando nightclub on Sunday, leaving 49 dead and 53 wounded, he did something not out of the ordinary for him:
He stopped by his parents' house to visit with his father.
In an interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Seddique Mateen, 59, said nothing about his son seemed amiss during that Saturday visit.
"It was just a normal day of life for him," the father said Monday. "I didn't notice anything. Not a single thing wrong."...
FORT PIERCE — Inside the humble little mosque where Omar Mateen regularly came to pray, a handful of worshipers gathered Sunday evening and struggled, along with the rest of the world, to understand what had driven him to kill.
On Friday, Mateen had faced east with the other regulars at the Islamic Center and bowed to a God who prizes justice and peace above all else, said Imam Shafeeq Rahman, who leads prayers at the center....
Despite promises made 16 years ago to settle a Civil Rights-era desegregation lawsuit, the Pinellas County School Board still isn't spending enough money to ensure black children catch up to their peers in reading and math, the plaintiffs said Friday.
The allegation was one of 30 contained in a legal document delivered to the school district — the first step in a process that could land the 50-year-old case back in front of a federal judge....
ST. PETERSBURG — Black leaders on Wednesday vented frustration at being left out of new proposals to aid St. Petersburg's black students and failing schools, but said they welcomed the spotlight that has been cast on the problem.
They said that a revolving cast of district officials have come before, with promises and plans but little change.
"We've had conversations with people who preceded you and here we are having it again," said Goliath Davis, a former police chief and deputy mayor, during a packed meeting of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education for Black Students. ...
The U.S. Department of Education on Monday opened a civil rights investigation into whether the Pinellas County School District systematically discriminates against black children, the agency said.
The review will determine if Pinellas is denying black children access to the courses and special programs they need to be successful in high school and after graduation.
It also will assess whether the district is denying black children access to quality teachers, school leaders and support staff, an education department official told the Tampa Bay Times....
ST. PETERSBURG — Citing broken promises by the Pinellas County School Board, the plaintiffs in a 50-year-old federal desegregation lawsuit announced Wednesday that they are going back to court in a bid to force school leaders to aid struggling black students.
Lawyers for the black families who originally sued the Pinellas County School District in 1964, eventually forcing countywide desegregation, are triggering a legal provision to push the case back in front of a mediator, said Roger Plata, a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund....
The Pinellas County School District uncovered a pattern of suspicious changes to test scores of struggling students enrolled in computer-based credit recovery courses at Clearwater High School late last year.
The testing irregularities — the subject of a WFTS-Ch. 28 report that aired Friday night — included cases of a teacher or teachers changing failing scores to passing scores on tests that allow students to recoup lost credit....
LARGO — The Pinellas County School Board on Tuesday aired a video in which local business leaders praised district officials and downplayed the troubles at five failing elementary schools in south St. Petersburg. Minutes later, however, board members voted to hire a new administrator whose job will be to help turn those schools around.
The moves sent conflicting signals about how board members view the condition of the five schools, even as superintendent Mike Grego works to fix them. ...
Most large Florida school districts are moving away from suspending children for nonviolent misbehavior — part of a nationwide consensus that harsh discipline falls unfairly on black kids and leaves struggling students too far behind.
The Pinellas County School District is an outlier.
Its leaders say teachers and principals know best, and they should be free to suspend students as they see fit....
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan delivered a stinging rebuke Friday to the Pinellas County School District, calling the rapid decline of five predominantly black neighborhood schools a "man-made disaster" and "education malpractice."
Standing in Campbell Park Elementary, Duncan said: "What has happened to too many kids, for too long, is unacceptable. It's heartbreaking. Part of me wants to cry. Part of me gets very, very angry."...
ST. PETERSBURG — Principals of five failing elementary schools on the city's south side are pointing to a decrease in teacher turnover and a drop in student discipline referrals as evidence that the schools are improving.
Their comments, made Wednesday at a packed meeting with leaders of the county's black community, were the first in public by the schools' leaders since the Tampa Bay Times published an investigation focusing on their schools....
LARGO — With a dramatic flourish, a longtime education activist unfurled a Confederate battle flag Tuesday in front of Pinellas County School Board members, saying they had failed black students in five neighborhood schools in south St. Petersburg.
Sami Leigh Scott told the board she was there to represent the 95 percent of students in the schools who failed reading or math last year. ...
Pinellas County school leaders have broken promises they made to settle a lawsuit accusing them of shortchanging black students, according to the plaintiff in the case.
In a letter delivered to superintendent Mike Grego on Saturday, the group that sued the School Board said the district isn't doing enough to help struggling black students.
"We have concluded that the district continues to fail to meet its obligations regarding the education of black students," wrote Ricardo Davis, head of the Concerned Organization for Quality Education of Black Students. "After five years, we simply do not feel any further discussions will be meaningful or helpful."...
Superintendent Mike Grego on Friday sought to reassure members of the city's black community in the wake of a Tampa Bay Times investigation that traced the district's role in resegregating five elementary schools and then turning them into some of the worst in Florida.
Speaking to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 150 parents, grandparents, community leaders and school employees, Grego described the steps he already has set in motion to improve the schools, including steering them more money and adding classroom aides, social workers and mental health counselors....