On June 12, 2012, Danielle Harkins was arrested for a type of student abuse not many would suspect to be under the list of teacher crimes. Harkins is the Florida teacher who forced students to participate in demonic rituals, specifically one involving fires and self-mutilation. It’s the kind of insane story about teachers who abuse their students that grips the nation for a millisecond before the news cycle turns over, but Danielle Harkins's crimes need further examination because of how strange they are. There are many stories about teachers with violent students, or the truly horrifying things teachers have to deal with, but in this case, it was the teacher committing a series of truly gruesome acts on her pupils.
Harkins was a literacy teacher working with a group of Florida teens. On June 9, 2012, she told seven teens they had demons inside them, and the only way to free themselves of these negative entities was to slice open their skin and then cauterize the wounds. While no one knows why she committed these harmful occult activities with her group of students, many cite her dissolving marriage, eventual divorce, and custody battle over her children as the catalyst for her unhinged rituals that would end in two students bleeding and badly burned.
As dusk set on June 9, 2012, Harkins started a small fire near the St. Petersburg Pier. This 35-year-old literacy literacy teacher at the Lealman and Asian Neighborhood Family Center was preparing a cleansing ritual for herself and some of her former students. When the handful of students arrived, she told them that there were demons living in their bodies and the only way to exorcise them was for Harkins to cut her former students open and cauterize their wounds. Police spokesman Mike Puetz said, "There was apparently some chanting and then dancing around this fire that was taking place," and then Harkins instructed the teens to slice each other open while she used a lighter to burn their wounds.
During the ritual, Harkins used a lighter in an attempt to brand one of her former students. After the wind blew out the flame, she decided to pour perfume on him as an accelerant and her plan worked too well. The fire was so intense that it caused second-degree burns on the student's hand. Another student received a slash on the throat from a jagged piece of a broken bottle. After cutting the student, Harkins used a burning key to cauterize their wound. A spokesperson for the police said that the students who participated in the ritual were loyal to their former teacher and keeping mum about the event.
Many believe the catalyst for the blood ritual that sent Harkins to jail was the divorce from her husband, George. The two didn't have a healthy marriage by a long shot; prior to the divorce she took her husband to court for a domestic dispute that was dismissed, so she was definitely dealing with a series of emotional issues.
Along with the stress of a recent divorce, Harkins had allegedly started getting into "religion." Her neigbhor, Lisa Cope, claims that one day Harkins stopped by to tell the poor woman that she "was okay" and that she "didn't have any demons."
The bizarre piece of this puzzle is how on board the students appeared to be with their ex-teacher. Even though she so obviously committed ritualistic abuse, they still didn't give any information to the police about her previous activity. The only student that offered anything to the press was Steven Chanthalima, 17, who said, "I'm fine. All I know is she's in custody."
Without any of the students coming forward and admitting to anything else happening to them, the only thing people can do is speculate on the nature of Harkins's crime. In the time she had with the students, she was able to isolate and groom them into caring for her, or at least into believing all of her weird blood ritual talk.