PETA sends letter to St. Johns County superintendent after dead shark hung from Ponte Vedra High rafters

PETA said it sent a letter to St. Johns County School District Superintendent Tim Forson on Tuesday offering lessons on kindness to animals after a dead shark was hung from the rafters at Ponte Vedra High School last week.

In a news release, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) said the letter from TeachKind, PETA’s humane education division, offered to provide the school district with a K-12 kindness to animals curriculum and “Empathy Now,” which was described as a guide to preventing youth violence against animals.

In the letter, the group notes that Florida law states that teachers must provide instruction in kindness to animals and says that it will hold free virtual presentations for the district.

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On Thursday morning, the district said the dead shark was found hanging from the rafters above a staircase at the school on Davis Park Road. The shark, which appeared to have been gutted, was cut down and removed but not before photos were posted on social media and quickly began circulating.

According to school officials, five Ponte Vedra High students have been identified by investigators as having hoisted the shark. An online petition on started by OneProtest, an animal advocacy group, seeks signatures in support of seeking criminal charges against the five.

News4JAX spoke with Kenneth Montville, PETA’s senior education projects manager, who called the photos “deeply disturbing.”

Students told News4JAX that it was a senior prank. The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that the incident is believed to be a school prank.

“If this was a prank, a senior prank or some type of joke, it definitely makes it just as serious,” Montville said. He added, “We use these opportunities where we see there is some sort of tragedy with young people- to take initiative to try to stop these incidents from happening.”

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is leading the investigation.

About the Authors:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.