By John R. Schirmer
A Nashville ninth grader has been expelled for the remainder of the 2021-22 academic year after an alleged incident of terroristic threatening at Nashville High School Dec. 9. The incident led to a campus-wide lockdown while the male student, 15, was apprehended.
The student attends junior high but was working on an art project at high school the afternoon of Dec. 9. NJHS Principal Ashley Riggs presented a report on the incident to the Nashville School Board during a student discipline hearing Thursday, Dec. 16. The complete text of her report is on page 5A of today’s News-Leader.
Superintendent Doug Graham told board members that the hearing was conducted openly because the student’s parents and legal representative were not in attendance. The student’s name was not announced.
“The parents had the right to come to the board meeting and present information. They chose not to come,” Graham said. “The parents were very understanding and supportive of the school. This is where we are in society now. You can’t make threats in a public school. I commend the parents for being understanding.”
According to Riggs’ report, the student was in an art class which was assigned a classroom door to decorate. While working on the project, “The student became very frustrated with himself and his peers.”
Shortly before school was to dismiss, art students were following their teacher back to the art room. As the accused student passed a witness in the hallway, she heard him say, “I’m going to kill everybody and their mom.”
Riggs said the witness returned to her classroom and decided to report the incident to the office. She didn’t know the boy but gave a description to school administrators.
High school was placed on
lockdown as Assistant Principal Krysta Parker and Principal Tate Gordon went to find the student. When they realized he was a ninth grader, they knew he was going to junior high and contacted Riggs. She spotted him on the NJHS practice field and detained him in her office.
Riggs, Parker and Gordon searched his belongings and questioned him about the incident. Resource Officer Andre Jones and Nashville policemen arrived at junior high soon after Riggs apprehended the student, who finally admitted that he had said what the witness reported.
Remaining details are on page 5A.
Graham said the student was in court at Nashville Dec. 15. He was assigned to a counseling program.
Graham recommended that the board expel the student for the remainder of the fall semester and for the entire spring semester. He will be eligible to return in August 2022 if his record is clear. If not,, “It will be an administrative decision on ALE, virtual.”
The student will not be allowed to attend sporting events and other activities and may not go on campus during the spring semester, Graham said.
Board members accepted Graham’s recommendation on a 4-0 vote.
Graham said the NHS administration, faculty and staff “did a good job. They’re to be complimented” for their handling of the situation. “Staff and students took it seriously and did what they were told to do.”
Graham and district administrators are reviewing what was done to determine if any procedures should be changed or added.
Board members considered several items following the discipline hearing.
Graham reviewed the district’s facilities master plan, which must be submitted to the state by Feb. 1.
Additions to the previous plan include tennis courts, new bleachers and a press box at the softball field, and new lights at Scrapper Stadium. None of those projects would require a millage increase, according to Graham.
“We don’t have to do any of them, but they have to be on the plan if we ever decide we want to,” Graham said.
The master also includes a new performing arts center. It would require asking for a millage increase, Graham said.
Board members approved a December bonus of $850 for “anybody employed by the district at the close of this meeting,” Graham said. A $500 bonus was approved in November. Board members amended that bonus to $850, with the extra $350 to be funded largely by $70,000 in reward money from the state. The remaining $30,00 will come from district funds.
Graham told the board that the state has several options for schools as they consider their calendars for 2022-23. Aug. 22 is the earliest date that classes may begin, Graham said.
The district’s Personnel Policies Committee will consider the options and make a recommendation for Graham and the board to consider.
In personnel item, high school career coach Amy Westfall resigned. Her position was partly funded by the district and partly by UA Cossatot. The job will be advertised, Graham said.
Westfall was then hired to teach first grade at Nashville Primary. Morgan Baxley washed for second grade.
Both hires are on an interim basis for the remainder of the academic year, Graham said. “We have the option to post the jobs and re-interview in April.”
The next meeting will be Tuesday, Jan. 18.