The Christian County High School administration was criticized by a group of parents at an informative meeting Thursday afternoon for its response to three threat incidents that occurred at the school Monday and Tuesday.
“I’ve learned a lot and I’ve self-reflected a lot,” CCHS Principal Chris Bentzel said at the beginning of the meeting.
Around 35 parents attended the afternoon meeting in the cafeteria at the high school. Many parents criticized the school for not informing parents of a threat to the school that happened Monday, which prompted rumors to spread on social media that night.
One parent said she would homeschool her child as a result of the threat. Another parent said her child would remain out of school until the safety situation was resolved.
Parents reported different responses from their children to the threat. One parent said she wanted her son to stay home from school, but her son insisted on attending. Another parent said her daughter was scared of going to school.
On Tuesday, the school reported around 370 absences and check-outs from CCHS. Parents who wanted their children to stay home from school could use parent notes to excuse the students. Parents who have run out of parent notes will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis the school administration said at the meeting.
Bentzel said he felt that most of the students at CCHS were dealing with the threat incidents appropriately. School administrators discussed the Monday incident with the students by going classroom to classroom Tuesday and explaining the situation.
Guidance counselors are available for students to talk to.
The school released more details of the three events at the meeting.
CCHS assistant principal Matthew Boehman said a student reported to him at 8:30 a.m. that a 17-year-old male student had made threats to the school via social media, saying people should not come to school tomorrow.
At that point, Bentzel said the school located the student and began an investigation into the threat, speaking to the student. The school resource officer, Michelle Kent, was with the administration throughout the process, Bentzel said.
The student was searched as a result of his statements.
After finishing the investigation, the school administration handed the student over to the school resource officer, who then removed the student from school grounds, where he was charged with second-degree terroristic threatening, a Class D felony.
The student was later released into the custody of his legal guardian.
Parents at the meeting complained of a judge’s decision to release the juvenile and not hold him in custody.
Bentzel said he decided not to inform parents of the threat to the school because the school administration judged it not to be a “viable threat.”
Calls were sent to parents after Tuesday’s incidents.
Many parents at the meeting criticized the decision not to notify parents about the initial threat. The parents complained that Bentzel might have misjudged the level of the threat.
“I need to do a better job,” Bentzel said in response to the criticism.
He said he would handle communication during threat incidents differently in the future. He stood by his assertion that no students at CCHS were in danger during Monday or Tuesday.
The two incidents that happened Tuesday at the school, Bentzel described as a “backlash” to the Monday incident.
“Tuesday morning, a student stood up, (and) thought it would be funny to say he has a weapon in his bag,” Bentzel said.
This initiated another investigation into the threat, in which a 15-year-old student was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct. A Christian County Sheriff’s Office
report indicated the student said he had an “AK” in his bag.
The student did not have a weapon, the report noted.
Tuesday afternoon, about an hour after the school administration finished their investigation into the first incident, a second threat incident occurred.
“A student stood up in class and said, ‘What if I made the same threat, that I’m going to shoot up the school tomorrow? What would happen to me?’” Bentzel said.
The sheriff’s department reported a 17-year-old was arrested as a result of the investigation and charged with second-degree terroristic threatening.
Parents at the meeting questioned whether the school could properly assess threats to the school. The school administration could not go into details about the specific threats Monday and Tuesday due to confidentiality concerns.
Despite that, Bentzel tried to assure parents the students were never in danger.
“I give you my word that I never felt like there was a safety issue,” he said.
Reach Sam Morgen at 270-887-3241 or email@example.com.