Espy: School is safe

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 27, 2007

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Dr. Isaac Espy is trying to reassure parents and concerned community members that Demopolis High School is safe and the students there were never in danger, despite rumors of a student who allegedly came to school with a gun and a hit list.

The high school principal said what he would describe as a &8220;minor administrative event&8221; turned into much more when online rumors and phone calls blew things out of proportion.

The DemopolisLive thread started Wednesday morning when a member reported a rumor of a &8220;kid with a gun at DHS. School in lockdown&8221; and asked if anyone in the online community could confirm or deny it. Several members dispelled the rumor. The thread continued throughout yesterday evening with continued rumors being added and other members dispelling them.

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The site administrators marked the thread as SPAM.

Nevertheless, rumor continued to spread throughout the city because of the police and fire presence at Demopolis High School. Espy said members of the fire department are constantly at the school either walking and exercising or doing routine maintenance like rolling out their hoses.

The police were called Wednesday, Espy said, after he interviewed a student suspected of making threats against other students and teachers. Police also were seen questioning the student yesterday.

Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel said officers will remain at the school for an indefinite time period.

Manuel said no arrests were made in connection to the incident, which was also rumored to have occurred.

Espy said the chain of events began Tuesday when a student came to him with impressions about the suspected student and his state of mind. Based on that conversation, Espy said he interviewed the student in question and then searched his car.

Espy said he felt like it was necessary to continue to investigate claims made about the student, including both statements the student allegedly made at school and claims that the student had made online threats.

Espy said he searched several online sites &8212; including MySpace and FaceBook &8212; but that he found no lists of students who were allegedly targets.

While acknowledging that the student did make threats, Espy did not confirm the nature of threats.

Espy did not release the name of the student, who is a male junior. Numerous students and parents have confirmed the student&8217;s identity to The Times, but it is the policy of the newspaper not to print the names of juveniles connected with any crime or suspect behavior unless they are arrested and charged as an adult.

One parent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said his child told him that any threats were most likely due to the fact that the student was continually picked on by other students.

The parent said his child has been in school with the student in question since second grade. The parent&8217;s child, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said a group of students continually picks on the student in question.

Espy said bullying &8220;comes in different forms,&8221; but that overt bullying is not a problem at the high school.

Espy said that the student in question &8220;has not been a discipline problem in the past.&8221; However, Espy said the student would not be allowed back on campus or at school events.

Dr. Wesley Hill, superintendent of Demopolis City Schools, said the student would receive due process through the school board in the form of a hearing. The school board is expected to decide on whether or not to expel the student.