05/04/07 — Parents worried about incident at Spring Creek High School

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Parents worried about incident at Spring Creek High School

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 4, 2007 1:45 PM

Jim Boatright took off work today because his son was afraid to go to school.

The eighth-grader at Spring Creek High School, Boatright said, "fears for his life" as the result of a fight that happened at the school on Wednesday afternoon.

Calls started trickling in to the News-Argus late Thursday from parents concerned about the lack of information about the incident and the churning rumor mill. Guns, gang activity and potential safety threats were on everyone's lips, and mothers and fathers wanted answers.

Several said they were keeping their children home from school today in anticipation of further problems.

Sheriff Carey Winders said he had also been contacted by parents who said students had indicated "there was going to be some trouble today" in retaliation for an incident earlier this week.

Maj. George Raecher of the Wayne County Sheriff's Office tried to squelch talk of gang activity at the school.

According to reports, Raecher said, "Wednesday, a student was running in the halls, a young black male, and ran into a Hispanic. I guess he knocked the Hispanic down so they had words."

The incident continued outside as students began boarding buses, he added, but the fight was broken up by teachers.

Raecher said the students' names were taken, with four people involved.

As for whether gang activity was a factor, Raecher said, "We don't have any confirmation of that."

This morning Raecher said he had been told the students involved in the "scuffle" had been suspended from school.

"The people involved in the situation, their parents went to the school, they acted appropriately," he said. "According to (deputy) Terry Sutton and the school system, the parents were cooperative. They were embarrassed with their students' activity, and supported law enforcement's action."

As to whether guns or other weapons were involved, Raecher said his office had no confirmation of that.

The story, meanwhile, has "just escalated."

Extra resource officers and law enforcement officers were dispatched to the school today as a precautionary measure, he said, "not because of the threat but in the event that something did erupt while the rumors were going around."

Raecher said he was "not downplaying it, that that is not a possibility in any of our schools." Without further evidence, however, he said it cannot be categorized as a gang incident.

Calls to the schools superintendent were not returned. Speaking on behalf of Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent, Ken Derksen, public relations officer, said safety procedures were put in place at the school on Thursday, when a metal detector was installed at the school's entrance.

One parent, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was only one metal detector at the school and not every student was required to pass through that entrance.

Derksen said an additional metal detector was in place today and everyone would be required to go through before entering the building. Extra security and staff were also on hand in the event of a problem, he added.

"Dr. Taylor takes any threat against schools seriously," Derksen said. "The school system always errs on the side of caution."

Whether or not enrollment numbers are down due to the fear factor, Derksen said those figures would not be known until this afternoon and even then, "it will still be 'best guess' as to whether the students were kept home and what number were sick."

Such assurances do little to calm parents and students, especially in light of recent shootings at Virginia Tech.

"I think it's a whole lot more than just rumors," Boatwright said.

"I am terribly upset that things are turning out like they are at this school. Earlier this same year, a student brought a gun to school. We parents did not find out about it until days later, and only after the News-Argus got wind of it."

Boatwright said he was bothered even more by the fact that calls to the school officials have gone unanswered and unreturned. He sent an e-mail to the school system today and requested a response.

"What are you going to do?" his e-mail said. "I suggest you start keeping us, the parents, abreast of the situation ... . I, as a concerned parent, cannot understand why the school board has felt this problem is not important enough to contact the parent. Are you concerned for the negative publicity? You already have that! It will get worse as long as you remain quiet."

Boatwright said it was frustrating having few answers.

"We can't meet with anyone out there (at the school). They don't want to talk with anyone evidently," he said, suggesting the school's automated phone system be implemented in cases like this.

"They have this wonderful phone system that they have got that will tell us whenever school's canceled. That would be a perfect recourse to broadcast daily."

Meanwhile, Winders said his office is aware of the problem and the situation. In an unrelated case, an arrest is pending of a Charles B. Aycock High School student who this week communicated threats at the school.

"You have got to take things seriously," Wnders said. "Whether he's playing or not, you don't ever know. It's a serious thing nowadays and when you make serious threats, you must take it seriously."

Raecher confirmed that a warrant had been issued and the student will be charged. He has already been suspended for 10 days by the school, he added.