The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 5, 2013

Many Shady High students stay home Wednesday

Some parents upset by lack of notification of threats

By Cody Neff and Jessica Farrish
Register-Herald Reporters

SHADY SPRING — Shady Spring High School will be operating on a normal schedule this morning, a day after the school was thrown into turmoil following the arrest of a student for allegedly making terroristic threats against the school and fellow students.

Many parents at Shady Spring opted to keep their kids home Wednesday.

According to Principal Daniel Moye, around half of the 850 students enrolled at Shady were absent Wednesday.

Shady dad Frank Almond said he and other parents were concerned for the safety of their children after having learned Tuesday on Facebook that a Shady teen had made terroristic threats.

The threats were made on a social networking site and included references to Columbine High School, where two students killed 12 fellow students and a teacher on April 20, 1999.

The student allegedly responsible was arrested Sunday, hours after Moye became aware of the threats.

Almond, however, said Raleigh school officials should’ve notified parents immediately in order to give them an option of whether or not to send their children to school.

“(A media outlet) posted something on Facebook, and I happened to see it at work,” Almond said. “I don’t feel we as parents should’ve heard about it on the news when they had that information.

“I’m not the only parent that points out that they have that automated call service for the whole county,” he said. “They could’ve let Shady parents know there was an issue, that they had made an arrest, and could’ve said what their plans were.

“They just failed,” he added. “They failed our community at Shady Spring.”

Although parents reported that they were not alerted of the incident via the local school system, local law enforcement officials notified the media of the arrest on Tuesday.

Hours later, Almond said, reports of possible danger at Shady began circulating on Facebook and via text messages, scaring parents.

“Another father texted me at midnight that his wife had gotten a call from another parent that there was supposed to be a gang-related thing at Shady today with guns,” he reported. “He said his wife was choosing to keep their daughter at home, and I woke my wife up at midnight and said, ‘Do not wake the kids up for school.’ ”

Almond said he’s not sure whether his children, a freshman and a sophomore, will return to school today.

“We’re facing a year anniversary of Sandy Hook (the elementary school shootings in Newtown, Conn.),” he said. “You don’t know what people are planning.”

He added that the Sunday arrest of the student allegedly responsible for the threats, along with the mass absenteeism of Shady students Wednesday, “could’ve stopped something.”

“I hope it did,” he added.

Shady parent Debbi Mills’ daughter, Erin, a senior, went to school Wednesday with no incidents.

Mills said due to her Christian faith — she regularly meets with a group of local moms to pray for the schools — and her knowledge of Moye and Shady Assistant Principal David Wills, she felt secure in allowing Erin to attend classes Wednesday.

   “I think the county does the best job it can do in being prepared,” added Mills. “And I felt that reassurance that God hears our voices.”

  Neither Mills nor Erin reported any incidents during the school day  Wednesday.

Moye reassured parents that there is no gang activity at Shady and no gangs operating there.

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The principal said that he was initially made aware of the student’s threatening online posts Sunday night, while he was at home.

Moye said he is familiar with the student who reportedly made the threats but can’t say whether the student planned to follow through on them.

“Who knows what’s in somebody’s heart?” he said. “You take this stuff seriously, and you act as if it was real, and that’s all you can do.”

Moye immediately contacted law enforcement officials and Raleigh Schools Superintendent Jim Brown.

The teen suspect was arrested Sunday night and taken into custody.

On Tuesday, law enforcement officials released a public statement about the student’s arrest to local media.

The teen was still in police custody Wednesday, as Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office detective Larry Lilly and others continued investigating the case.

Raleigh Chief Deputy Dave Stafford and West Virginia State Police troopers reported Wednesday that no other suspects have been arrested in relation to the terroristic threats.

Moye said police acted quickly and that he wants to reassure parents and students that the school is secure.

Although, Moye said, it’s impossible for one person or any group of people in a community a “100 percent guarantee” of  someone’s safety, Shady students are not in danger from the student who had allegedly made the threats.

“We have a safe school,” he said. “Myself, and two great assistant principals are here.

“We have the resource officer every day, and the school hires a security guard,” said Moye. “He’s here every day.

“Our teachers are very vigilant.

“What can you say? You just do the best you possibly can — and we have, and we do.”

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The student’s guardian talked to The Register-Herald and said they regret not keeping better tabs on the teen. The Register-Herald is withholding the guardian’s name to protect the identity of the teen who was arrested, who is a minor.

“I didn’t expect this, honestly,” they said. “We’re not that kind of people and he’s not that kind of person.

“Quite frankly, I attribute this to too much Internet. I think we should have unplugged. We should have monitored like we’re supposed to.”

The guardian said they don’t blame anyone but themselves for what happened.

“I don’t use excuses and I don’t blame people,” they said. “I have to accept responsibility. I think I could have been a better parent by unplugging him. That doesn’t necessarily mean that things would have changed though.

“We’re not blaming the schools.  The school has been good to us and have worked with us over the years. I think we just didn’t catch this soon enough.”

Parents should keep better track of what their kids are doing online, they added.

“Parents, you hear it and you’re told it, but you should take the time to monitor the Internet activity of young people.

“There’s too much out there for them. You think it might not happen in your house, but you never know.”

The student’s guardian said they are just taking things as they come and supporting everyone looking into the event.

“Everyone in the school’s been professional and has been good to us,” they said. “It’s the kind of home you wouldn’t expect something like this to go on in. Not because it’s our home, but because the way he was raised.

“We were disheartened, but we’ve whole-heartedly supported everyone. It’s a bad thing, but it is what it is. He knew better and he’s been raised better.”

A call to Raleigh BOE President Rick Snuffer wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday.

—  E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com