Threat at school prompts suspension, policy review

Friday, March 8, 2002

Central Junior High School is reviewing its policy on verbal threats between students after an incident that resulted in the suspension of one ninth-grade boy and in-house discipline of his reported target.

Assistant superintendent of schools Mark Bowles said a freshman muttered something about "shoot the dude" as he left a classroom on March 1.

A teacher told assistant principal Brenda McCowan, and McCowan told the school resource officer and called the boy to her office to talk about the threat. The reported victim went home before administrators could interview him.

Police came to Central Junior High that day to ward off a potential after-school fight, said Jason Selzer, a police spokesman.

There was none. Officers didn't take anyone into custody initially because muttering an indirect threat isn't a crime, but the boy who made threats could be turned over to juvenile authorities after a full investigation.

Bowles said the incident should have been handled differently by Central Junior High School administrators.

First, he said, the teacher immediately should have seen that the boy who made the threat went to the office. Second, the freshman's bag and locker should have been searched right away. Third, the victim should have been interviewed on Friday instead of going home. Finally, the boys' parents should have been contacted immediately.

History of conflict

Bowles said the two boys have a history of conflict, and the situation became clear after the victim's mother called the school Monday and asked if the other boy's locker had been searched.

"That mother had a point," he said. "I think we had every reason to conduct a search."

Administrators searched the locker after the suspension and didn't find any weapons. The reported victim also was disciplined for his role in the dispute, Bowles said.

The district's campus security team conducted its monthly meeting on Wednesday and discussed the situation. The team, which has representatives from each school level, the police department and youth agencies, reviewed district policy dealing with verbal threats.

hhall@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 121

Cape Girardeau students who hear threats should call Crimestoppers at 332-0050, Bowles said. Calls can be anonymous.

School administrators by law withhold names of student offenders and victims to protect student privacy.

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