A sacked Florida teacher arrested for bringing a loaded gun and knives to school has given a cryptic hint that her actions were politically motivated – after accusing the school principal of unfairly sacking her.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that when reporters asked Betty Jo Soto, 49, why she had brought the weapons to work at Starkey Elementary School in Seminole on Monday, she replied: ‘Ask DeSantis. Your governor.’
It also emerged that Soto had emailed the newspaper on the morning of the incident alleging she had been treated unfairly by Starkey school principal Audrey Chaffin.
Arrested Florida teacher Betty Jo Soto, 49, sells Burning Spear, the newspaper of the Florida-based African People’s Socialist Party, part of the pan-Africanist Uhuru Movement (left) and attends a ‘Black Power’ event (right)
Soto made the remark as she walked out of jail on Monday night after posting $500 bail.
It may be a reference to legislation ratified by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis two weeks ago to allow teachers to carry guns as early as this October, to defend themselves and their pupils against the epidemic of school shootings sweeping the US.
Chaffin had recently informed Soto that her contract would not be renewed next year, telling her in person beforew sending a formal letter on April 25.
Soto’s last day at work was due to be May 31, before she was arrested and summarily dismissed on Monday.
Florida elementary school teacher Betty Jo Soto, 49 (left and right), has been arrested, charged and fired over allegedly bringing a loaded gun and a six-inch knife into her classroom at Starkey Elementary School in Seminole on Monday
Soto alleged her sacking was ‘retaliation’ for speaking out against principal Dallas Jackson at her previous workplace, John Hopkins Middle School in St Petersburg, in the same Pinellas county as Starkey elementary.
Chaffin ‘lied on my evaluations and she set me up,’ Soto wrote to the newspaper. ‘I believe I was set up.’
Jackson was removed from his post earlier this year just 17 months into the job, after student discipline reportedly broke down and staff left in droves due to his alleged harrassment.
One parent likened his management to a ‘juvenile detention facility,’ while others said ‘students rule the school.’
Soto was found to be carrying a loaded a Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol and a six-inch Karambit fighting knife (stock photo) at around 11.30am Eastern, authorities said
The weapons were discovered after principal Chaffin noticed Soto exhibiting ‘suspicious behavior’ and called law enforcement, Pinellas school district spokesperson Lisa Wolf-Chason said.
Soto, who has a concealed weapons permit, was reported to law enforcement by Principal Audrey Chaffin after she found her carrying a backpack around campus to be unusual, Wolf-Chason said.
‘The principal notified law enforcement and in the course of their investigation, discovered what was in her backpack,’ she said.
Soto was found to be carrying a loaded a Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol and a six-inch Karambit fighting knife at around 11.30am Eastern, authorities said.
Authorities said the gun, which contained seven bullets, was ‘exposed’ to students in Soto’s classroom. A stock photo of a Glock 9mm semiautomatic pistol is shown
Authorities said the gun, which contained seven bullets, was ‘exposed’ to students in Soto’s classroom.
Having a concealed weapons permit does not equate to having permission to carry such weapons on a public school campus. Permit holders are also obliged to keep their firearms out of sight while carrying them.
The school district had recently decided not to renew Soto’s teaching contract for the upcoming academic year, Wolf-Chason said, though she did know when Soto was informed of that decision.
Soto was immediately fired from her teaching position and has been charged with two misdemeanor counts of carrying a concealed weapon.
She has been released on a $500 bond. Soto did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com’s request for comment.
Soto was arrested at Starkey Elementary School (pictured) in Seminole, Florida on Monday