Originally created 03/28/04

Schools reassess safety efforts



Death threats written on the walls of Columbia Middle School.

A knife-wielding student at Evans High School.

In the past two weeks, some Columbia County schools have produced a flurry of police reports, prompting school officials to take a second look at school safety.

"The fact that kids continue to bring so many knives to school is troubling," school Superintendent Tommy Price said. "Obviously, they've got them for some unknown reason. Everybody knows the rules."

Charles Nagle, the associate superintendent for student and school services, said principals have been asked to "heighten their awareness and upscale supervision."

He said schools plan to increase random searches and the use of metal detectors. But school officials admit they are limited in what they can do.

With about 1,700 students trying to push through Evans High School's doors in the morning, metal detectors at every entrance would be too expensive and impractical, Principal Don Brigdon said.

"We're going to do more random checks where basically we roll the metal detector down to a room at random and make students go through a metal detector where we wand their bags while they are in the rooms," Mr. Brigdon said. "We are going to pick up the pace and do the random checks more often. It's disruptive, but we feel we need to do it."

Mr. Brigdon said teachers, custodians and administrators are routinely posted outside rest rooms and watch parking lots, "but it's been mainly to discourage smokers."

At Columbia Middle School, where two incidents have occurred recently, Principal Donna Anderson said she is starting a public awareness campaign.

"We're doing reminders to the kids to leave the stuff at home," said Dr. Anderson, who added that notices also are going out to parents through newsletters and e-mail.

She urged parents to become more aware of their child's activities and behavior at school and at home.

School officials recently blocked school computer access to several Internet journal sites, also called blogs, where local teens are leaving troubling messages, Dr. Anderson said.

"It will give you the dark side of some of their thought processes," she said. "If parents don't know how to use the computer, then that's a very dangerous thing, especially with some of the sites I've seen."

The students themselves are the schools' front line of defense, Mr. Nagle said.

"We like to think something is working well. We are catching the ones who have got them (knives)," he said. "The kids are catching them and turning them in."

PUPILS IN TROUBLE

Recent events at Columbia County schools that have led to arrests:

  • A Columbia Middle School sixth-grader confessed to writing a hit list Wednesday, authorities said. The 11-year-old boy, who was charged with making terroristic threats, was found in possession of a list with 11 names on it, Columbia County sheriffís Capt. Steve Morris said.
  • An 18-year-old Evans High School student was arrested Tuesday after marijuana and a knife was found in his car , school officials said.
  • A 15-year-old Columbia Middle School girl was charged with making terroristic threats and acts after death threats and suicidal remarks were found on the walls of the girlsí rest room March 19. It included a hit list with multiple first names, according to a sheriffís office report.
  • A 12-year-old Columbia Middle School boy was charged with possession of a weapon on school property March 18 after officials found a 3-inch folding knife.
  • An 18-year-old Evans High School student was charged with aggravated assault March 18 after he reportedly held a knife to a fellow studentís throat.
  • Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113 or melissa.hall@augustachronicle.com.