Town Hall Meeting held to Discuss Recent Threats at Farragut High School

By Sally Absher

Karen Carson held a town hall meeting for the Fifth District community at Farragut High School Thursday, March 31, 2016 to discuss the recent threats at FHS, the school system’s response and the community’s ability to support a resolution to these concerns.

Several dozen Farragut parents, students, teachers and staff attended the meeting. Also in attendance were Commissioners John Schoonmaker and Bob Thomas, Knox County Board of Education Chair Doug Harris, Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre, KCS Chief of Security Gus Paidousis, Chief Deputy Lee Trammell, and others from the Sheriff’s department. Board of Education member-elect Jennifer Owen and 5th District candidates Susan Horn and Buddy Pelot were also present.

Carson explained that she was not going to get into the details about the threats that occurred, saying, “There is a delicate balance between providing enough information so parents understand that the right things are happening to protect their children, and providing too much information.” She said they gave too much information after the first threat, and there were copycat threats.

In fact, there have been at least four threats at FHS since February. Last Tuesday, the high school was evacuated and students were sequestered in the football stadium for several hours. More information, or at least more consistent information, is what many of those who spoke at the meeting were requesting.

Brian Mayer, a parent, said that he doesn’t have confidence in KCS because, “We don’t know what the plan is and we don’t know who is in charge, and I got conflicting messages. You don’t have to give me specifics but I do need more communication.”

Students also want to know the plan and expectations. Junior Viktoria Ohstrom said, “As a student I need to know where I’m expected to be, how I am expected to behave in this situation and that’s not what I’m getting.”

Carson explained that there are two general responses to a threat: hard lock down, where everyone stays where they are and there is no movement, and soft lock down, which allows movement from class to class within a building. She said, “Our specific response changes with every situation.”

Chief of Security Gus Paidousis explained, “All threats are taken very seriously, but all threats aren’t created equal… What we know dictates to a large degree what we do, but also what we don’t know dictates what we do… We don’t want to push out information that creates a blueprint for someone to create a threat.”

Dr. McIntyre added, “We respond based on the nature of the threat.” He said there may be a different response to each threat, from early dismissal to moving kids to cancelling school. “Our interest is to provide as much information as we possibly can, as quickly as we possibly can. Our first obligation is to keep your kids safe.”

Carson encouraged parents to be proactive, to be aware of what their child is doing on social media, and try to de-escalate their child’s anxiety (and their own) during these events. She cited the anonymous tip line set up to help “see something, say something,” which many in the audience were not familiar with (see below).

To report potential violence, drugs, bullying or other sensitive issues to security and law enforcement.
Text to: 274637 (spells CRIMES)
Type in keyword: knoxschools
Type a space
Type your tip

A student from Hardin Valley Academy, which also recently experienced a bomb threat, asked, “In your personal opinion, do you think that these threats are unrelated and not going to be a problem in the future, or do you think they are a reflection on a bigger problem that we are not really seeing?” Carson said she didn’t want to speculate, but encouraged anyone thinking this was part of a bigger problem to talk with parents, school officials, law officers, etc.

 

Here is a reporting on recent threats from the Knox County Sheriff’s website, and other reported threat incidents during the 2015-2016 school year:

 

School Bomb Threats Update – Thursday, March 31, 2016. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office advises that every individual that has been involved in a bomb threat at Hardin Valley Schools and Farragut Schools has been identified and or charged.

One Student Arrested for Bomb Threat and Another Identified. Tuesday, March 29, 2016. The Major Crimes Unit of the Knox County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a 16 year old male student from Farragut High School for making a bomb threat at the school this morning. The school was on lockdown while KCSO investigators searched the school and interviewed students and staff after a threat was found on the wall in a boys’ restroom. The 16 year old is charged with vandalism and making a bomb threat.

Monday, March 28, 2016. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has charged a 16-year-old girl with making a bomb threat at Hardin Valley School last week. The teen is a student at the school and is charged with making a bomb threat and vandalism. The school was closed last Thursday after school officials found a bomb threat written on the girls’ bathroom wall.

Monday, December 7, 2015. It was reported that the Knoxville Police Department and Knox County Schools Security increased their presence at West High School after a threatening message was written on a boys restroom wall. The handwritten message, “I will cleanse this school on Monday,” followed by a smiley face, was discovered the previous Friday, according to Knoxville Police Department spokesman Darrell DeBusk.

August 14, 2015. It was reported that a bomb threat called into Brickey-McCloud Elementary in Halls may be related to a series of threats made earlier against schools in Middle Tennessee, including Hickman, Davidson, Sumner, Maury, Lewis, and Rutherford counties.

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