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The Tennessee Conservative [By Paula Gomes] –
Giles County parents are living a daily nightmare as a boy who threatened to shoot up his middle school last year has been allowed back in the classroom with students who testified against him in court.
According to a Daily Wire investigation, when 9th graders showed up at Giles County High School for their first day of school, they found that the boy who had been arrested 16 months prior for threats of violence against his middle school was once again part of the student body.
Students who had testified against the boy said that he had made a list of students he wanted to kill, had a specific date in mind, and had practiced how he was going to carry out the crime.
With the boy’s appearance at the rural community’s high school, along with these students, they believe he has even more reason to one day go through with his plan.
In a bizarre turn of events, when parents spoke to the school district over their concerns with the situation, they were told that the blame fell at the feet of the Republican majority state legislation.
Many parents have chosen to pull their children out of school rather than have them become victims of retaliation.
Hannah Riley is one such parent whose son was warned by the would-be shooter to stay away from school on a certain date. The boy gave Riley’s son the heads up because he had been kind to him in the past. Riley’s son reported it to authorities and later testified in court.
Riley told the Daily Wire, “My child did the right thing and now he’s the one being punished.”
Despite parents pleading with school officials to do something, they were just told to become “activists” during the special session on gun safety which was at the time happening at the State Capitol.
School districts already have a system for dealing with students who threaten mass violence, Giles County Public Schools chose not to use the tools at their disposal. Students that make threats may be flagged so that they can be put under close supervision but Giles County High School says they were not aware of the boy’s disciplinary record.
Riley had called the school district during the summer to make sure that the boy would not be attending the same high school as witnesses but received no answer. When her son texted on the first day that the culprit was there, she chose to pick him up from school immediately. The principal gave Riley’s son an excused absence but when Riley met with the school resource officer just a few days later, she learned that the principal had not even shared the culprit’s name with security.
To make matters worse, the boy who was previously charged with five counts of threats of mass violence on school property and one count of harassment, has since been involved in a violent episode where he punched another student.
School superintendent Vickie Beard told Caleb Slagle, the father of the student who was assaulted, that Tennessee law doesn’t allow students to be expelled from public schools and they can only suspend students for up to 180 days for zero-tolerance offenses.
But according the the Tennessee School Board Association, zero-tolerance offenses require offenders to be suspended for not less than one calendar year, and school boards may deem which offenses qualify. Tennessee code also does indeed specify how to expel students should that become necessary.
In addition, a new law that went into effect in July, requires school districts to suspend a student for a year or more for threats of mass violence.
After several parents withdrew students from the school, the school board chose to use a parliamentary maneuver at the August 17th school board meeting, fearing pushback from the community. The usual public comment portion of the meeting was removed.
Captain Joe Purvis of the Giles County Sheriff’s Office said that SROs need to know about the history of students that have threatened to kill others on school grounds.
In this case, the culprit had been arrested for an unrelated assault in school on May 17th, 2021. Nearly a year later, he was arrested for threatening a killing spree.
Riley enrolled her son in an out-of-district school at her own personal cost. While expensive, Riley said she couldn’t leave her son at Giles County High School in good conscience. Knowing that her son is surely viewed now as the “kid who turned me in” instead of the “kid who was kind to me” meant that she had no choice but to remove him from the school and from close contact with the troubled student.
About the Author: Paula Gomes is a Tennessee resident and reporter for The Tennessee Conservative. You can reach Paula at firstname.lastname@example.org.