East Middle School student posts 'kill list'

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Note leads to second recent arrest for threatening students

By Lisa King

For the second time in less than two weeks, a student at East Middle School has been arrested for threatening other students.

Shelby County Sheriff Mike Armstrong said that on Monday a student was arrested and charged with terroristic threatening after writing a "kill list" on a bathroom wall at the school.

The list consisted of three names, including that of the student who wrote it, he said.

Armstrong said that 12 days ago, a different student, also at East Middle, was also charged with terroristic threatening in similar incident.

That student also had written a "hit list" on school property, Armstrong said.

Because the student is a juvenile, the sheriff would not release either student's name, age or gender.

Armstrong said that although detectives are not sure of the motive behind the acts, they don't think the students were seriously contemplating violence in either of the incidents or that the incidents were related.

"We have not found anything that gave us reason to believe that the student was out preparing to conduct an act like this," he said.

These two incidents follow an oral threat made April 20 by a Shelby County High School student. In that case, Thomas Lee Wenz, 18, was arrested and charged with terroristic threatening for allegedly saying that he was going to "go to school and kill them all."

That incident happened on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine High School Massacre, the fourth-most deadly school massacre in the history of the United States.

Although school officials said the type of discipline that will be doled out to these students is confidential, they are sending the message that the threat of violence will not be tolerated, said Duanne Puckett, community relations coordinator for the school system.

School policy dictates that nearly all information on school-related incidents must come from her office, and consequently, all quotes from faculty or staff -- including this incident -- come in the form of a press release.

East Middle School Principal Anthony Sieg said in a statement that inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.

"We take anything like this seriously," he said.

Although no motivation has been given for the threats, Sieg refers to the students' behavior as being "poor decisions" on their parts.

He also said that parents were notified of the situation by the school system's OneCall Now telephone communication system of the threats against their children.

"None of the incidents were related, and only a handful of students' names were involved," he said. "I have fielded questions from parents, and my answer is the same when they ask, 'Is it safe to send my child to school?' Sure."

Gary Kidwell, director of Student Accounting and Support Services, worked closely with detectives in  the incident, as his department oversees student discipline.

He said proper procedures were taken in identifying the students who wrote the messages and in alerting the parents of the children threatened, as well as involving law enforcement and social-services agencies called in to handle the incidents.

He added that the students who committed these acts are "facing appropriate disciplinary measures."

"Everything was under control immediately, and at no time were students or staff in any danger. Our goal is to handle a situation appropriately and not instill panic," he said.

Kidwell said that state testing was under way while the threats were being made. Sieg said he wants to make it clear that "if these acts were performed to disrupt instruction, the students were wrong. Learning will continue up until the last day of school on June 2."

In spite of the fact that there have been three incidents of school threats in less than a month, Superintendent James Neihof said he does not feel the district has a discipline problem.

"These types of situations are isolated," he said. "The large majority of our students have no discipline problems and the school environment runs smoothly on a day-to-day basis."