Archive for Friday, May 29, 1998

WAVE OF VIOLENCE HITS AREA SCHOOLS

May 29, 1998

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— A Tonganoxie seventh-grader is taken from the school in handcuffs, and a threat causes a lock-down at a Grantville school.

A 13-year-old boy was removed from school in handcuffs Wednesday after several fellow students said he repeatedly threatened to kill them. He remained in juvenile lock-up Thursday.

``He's in custody here. That's all I can tell you,'' said Ed Kitchens, director of Leavenworth County Juvenile Detention Center in Leavenworth.

Tonganoxie Police Chief Bill Adkins said Thursday that no charges had been filed yet against the seventh-grader, whose name was not disclosed by officials.

``We'll send a report up (today) and then the county attorney can determine what he'd like to do from there,'' Adkins said.

Adkins said the student, taken by police from the Tonganoxie middle school about noon on Wednesday, did not resist arrest.

Contrary to rumor and some broadcast news reports, investigators ``could not substantiate,'' Adkins said, that the student had a firearm or other weapon or that he had specifically threatened to use one.

``There was no gun in the home,'' Adkins said. ``We don't know where that (rumor) came from.''

Taking a strong stand

School Supt. Richard Erickson said he hopes the boy's arrest will deter other students who might contemplate threats against others.

``He had threatened six or seven other students, indicated verbally to the students he would kill them,'' Erickson said. ``His locker was searched and his bags were searched, but no weapons were found.

``We're taking a very strong stand on threats of violence,'' he said. ``Tonganoxie police were called in and this young man was taken down to the city jail and questioned down there and then removed to the detention center in Leavenworth, where he is being held at this time.''

Erickson said police were called after several students contacted the assistant principal Wednesday morning and told of their concerns about the threats.

``It's my understanding that some of these threats have taken place, not just yesterday, but over a two-week period of time,'' Erickson said.

Recent national news about murders by students at schools in Arkansas and Oregon have sharpened worries about potential violence, Erickson said. On Monday, McLouth school board members meeting in emergency session voted to close schools three days early after rumors of a threat circulated there. District officials said Thursday they made the right call.

Erickson said in addition to seeking criminal charges the school will move for, ``a long-term suspension or expulsion,'' of the accused student.

``We'll take a strong stand now and in the future,'' Erickson said. ``It's important to send a strong message to students.''

There are about 400 students enrolled in grades 7, 8 and 9 at the middle school, which is located just to the west of Tonganoxie High School. Classes end today.

Grantville threat

Three area schools reacted this week to rumors or threats of violence in the final days before summer vacation.

At Grantville, where Perry-Lecompton school district has a building for fifth- and sixth-graders, there was a ``lock-down'' Thursday in response to a rumored threat of violence by a student against a teacher.

``It's one of those situations where I think there's a lot of hearsay and rumor,'' said School Supt. Henry Murphy. ``Hopefully, we're just taking precautions.''

The lock-down, he said, amounted to no more than locking the building's exterior doors and screening those who entered.

``It was an alleged threat against a teacher from a student,'' Murphy said. ``It was in a conversation with other students and what have you. It's one of those he-said, she-said type things.''

Murphy said the boy's parents were informed of the allegation and they elected to keep him home from school Thursday.

``That doesn't mean they admit it or the student admits it,'' he said.

He refused to name the teacher or the student.

``It's kind of ironic that a number of things like this have happened right now when school is close to getting out,'' Murphy said. ``It indicates to me someone is trying to figure out how to end the school year early.''

-- Mike Shields phone message number is 832-7144. His e-mail address is mshields@ljworld.com.

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