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Exclusive: Gunman's violent behavior dated to school days

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 6/16/2016 Andrew Atterbury, St. Lucie (Fla.) NewsTribune

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Omar Mateen’s elementary and middle school records paint the Orlando nightclub shooter as a disruptive student who struggled with English.

His behavior — marked by constant outbursts and classroom insubordination — greatly contributed to his academic struggles, according to the documents.

“The main factor prohibiting Omar from success in school is not that the work is too hard but rather his difficulties in conforming to class/school rules,” according to a letter sent to Mateen’s father shortly before he withdrew from St. Lucie County’s Southport Middle School in 1999.

Mateen, who on Sunday killed 49 people and injured 53 at an Orlando nightclub, bounced around St. Lucie County campuses from kindergarten until 1999, when he transferred to the Martin County Schools District in eighth grade.

He was disciplined 31 times between 1992 and 1999 for numerous disruptions, for striking a student and for disrespectful behavior during his time in St. Lucie County schools, according to documents obtained exclusively by TCPalm.com.

More than half of his discipline write-ups came during the 1996-1997 school year, when he was in fifth grade.

He already had attended two kindergartens — one in an Islamic school in Westbury, N.Y. — before his family moved to Florida in 1991. One kindergarten teacher said in a grade report that Mateen was “basically an intelligent student but does not always follow through with his responsibility,” according to his record.

Enrolling in St. Lucie Elementary in December 1991, Mateen was sent to finish kindergarten at Frances K. Sweet Elementary because he was limited in reading, writing and speaking English, according to documents.

Mateen’s first language was “Afghani,” which was primarily spoken at home, according to records.

He attended Manatee Elementary School in first and second grade, then transferred to Mariposa Elementary School, where he finished second grade and stayed through fifth grade, according to documents.

As early as third grade, Mateen was verbally abusive, rude and aggressive, according to the documents obtained by TCPalm.com. He talked frequently of violence and obscenities, documents revealed.

Once, in third grade, instead of singing “Mariposa, Mariposa” in the school song, Mateen sang “Marijuana, marijuana,” according to records.

In December 1995, while in fourth grade, Mateen was referred to a student study team — comprising a teacher, psychologist, guidance counselor and parent — for continuing to hit students, talking out in class and screaming at teachers and fellow students, according to records.

Later that year, Mateen’s behavior in a computer lab was outlined by his teacher one day in late August: He consistently defied his teacher, dancing and mimicking the teacher as she addressed the class, according to documents.

When the teacher flicked off the lights to get the students’ attention, she initially couldn’t find Mateen, finally locating him under his desk, documents state.

“Omar needs to apply himself,” his fifth-grade teacher said in a progress report. “He is capable if he could just stay focused more than 5 minutes.”

By fourth grade, Mateen’s grades in core subjects were almost all Cs and worsened to Ds and Fs in fifth grade. His Stanford Achievement Test scores, used to measure students from kindergarten to high school, were below average in fifth grade and particularly low in reading, where he scored in the bottom 6%, according to the records.

By seventh grade, at Southport Middle School in 1998-1999, Mateen was in danger of failing reading, language arts, math and science, according to reports.

His performance was hampered by a lack of motivation rather than an English deficiency, documents revealed. Following a “Limited English Proficient” committee meeting in May 1999, Mateen was scheduled to be monitored by daily progress reports and his schedule was changed to alleviate peer pressure, reports showed.

“Omar does not suffer from an obvious language deficit ... rather it appears to be language interference in combination with a lack of motivation to perform academic work,” the report said.

He was withdrawn from Southport in August 1999, as he began eighth grade, and transferred to the Martin County School District.

Follow Andrew Atterbury on @AtterburyTCPalm Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials walk through the parking lot of the Pulse gay night club, the site of a mass shooting days earlier, in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 15, 2016. © Adrees Latif/Reuters Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officials walk through the parking lot of the Pulse gay night club, the site of a mass shooting days earlier, in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 15, 2016.

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