Cassville superintendent details timeline of alleged rally threat Thursday, 911 calls by students

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Student accused of making hit list, threats had no list or weapon, was already not attending rally

Cassville Superintendent Richard Asbill has detailed events occurring Thursday prior to the middle school rally for school safety, including an alleged threat against rally-goers and 911 calls made by middle school students just before the rally began.

Asbill said at late Thursday morning, the district received three reports of alleged threats made by another student at the middle school. One said the student in question had made a hit list, a second said the student in question had mentioned "killing all the gays" who attended the rally, and a third said the student in question had threatened to disrupt the rally.

Asbill said the student being accused of the threats was placed in in-school suspension (ISS) for a separate class disruption at about 11:30 a.m., and when administration investigated the threat claims, they talked to the student in ISS and found the student to be in possession of a pocket knife, leading to further disciplinary action.

Asbill said no hit list was ever found, no plans for disrupting the rally were found, nor was the student in question in possession of any firearm. A search of the student's locker also found no weapons.

At about 1 p.m., the district and School Resource Officer Troy Wenzel was alerted that two calls had been placed from middle school students to 911, with one student saying another had threatened to shoot up the rally, and a second saying there was a student with a hit list.

"Troy met with [middle school administrators] to investigate and found there was no credible threat, as the student in question was already in ISS, had been disciplined for the pocket knife and would not be attending the rally," Asbill said. "We believe we could have done a better job in having the police involved in the allegations at the start. Troy was not involved in the investigation up until the 911 calls, and we could have told him earlier on so at least he'd be informed of what we had investigated. We have to be careful because Troy is still a city police officer, and it is different what a principal investigates versus something becoming a police matter."

Asbill said after the district received notice of the 911 calls and determined there was not credible threat, Middle School Principal Jimmy Barton made an announcement over the intercom.

"Jimmy said over the intercom at about 1:50 p.m. that we know students had called 911 but Officer Troy is here, and if there are any concerns, report it to a teacher so it can be communicated to Officer Troy," Asbill said. "Jimmy also announced over the intercom that the student alleged to be causing the disruption would not be attending the rally, and everything was under control."

Asbill said there have been concerns that the district was aiming to prevent students from calling 911 in these types of situations, which is not the case.

"The district does not discourage 911 calls, and Jimmy did not intend for it to be taken that way," Asbill said. "[Friday], when we met to talk about what we would have done differently throughout the day, we said we could visit with students [who called 911], and their parents, to thank them for calling 911, but also to tell them to let a teacher or Officer Troy know, especially potentially moments before the rally so we could have the police direct the effort right then and there instead of getting it through dispatch.

"We are not intending to disciple or argue with anyone, but if there was a new credible threat, it would have been acted on quicker in that case because police were already there."

Asbill said when the rally was planned a couple weeks prior, the district had already asked for more police to be on site to ensure the safety of the students during the event.

At about 3 p.m., nearly an hour after the rally ended, Asbill said he received a call from a parent in possession of its child's cell phone and was concerned about group texts coming to the phone.

"The texts asked, 'Have you heard,' and mentioned hearing about 'shooting up the gays,' but it was nothing beyond that," Asbill said. "We have been working with that parent, and the cell phone has been turned over to Cassville Police as evidence."

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