School and law enforcement officials say three potential violent incidents at Dickson County High School were averted during the past six months after students notified adults about threats made by classmates.
On one occasion in March and two incidents in August, police investigated tips from students about threats and were able to bring three juveniles into court for what they determined were credible threats. Because the individuals involved are minors, their names were not released by police or school officials.
Police said in a March incident, a student showed her grandmother a text from a male student in which he threatened to commit violence at DCHS the next day. The grandmother notified police and investigators from the Dickson Police Department worked through the night to locate and interview the student. They determined he was serious enough about the threat that he was taken for a psychological evaluation and cited in a Dickson County Juvenile Court petition.
In the first incident last month, police said a student informed a school resource officer at a football game of a threat of violence made by another student. The SRO notified investigators who again located and interviewed the student, who was cited in a juvenile court petition.
Police said in an incident the next day, a student informed a parent of a threat to commit violence by a classmate and the parent notified school officials who called police. Investigators again found the threat credible enough to seek a juvenile court petition.
“The fact that we were able to stop potential acts of violence in the schools before they happened is the direct result of students being brave enough to tell an adult about the threats,” said Dickson Police Chief Jeff Lewis. “In all three of these incidents, a student heard something and told either a parent, grandparent or school resource officer, who then took the steps necessary for law enforcement to investigate the threats and stop a potential violent act. This will always be our first and best line of defense.”
Director of Student Services Steve Sorrells said the school system not only stresses the importance of reporting potential issues, but is utilizing technology to give students another way to advise school officials.
“An emphasis of ours this year is ‘See Something — Say Something,’ which encourages students to report items to authorities,” Sorrells said. “This has been coupled with our StopIt app, which allows students to anonymously report items through the social media platform.”
Sorrells said the school system is utilizing numerous resources to provide for student safety.
“In order to maintain the strong academic sucess we have enjoyed the past two years in Dickson County schools, we recognize our need to promote a safe school environment,” Sorrells said. “We have invested a significant amount of resources in all our schools, including adding school resource officers and social workers to assist with this challenge. Our partnership with both Mental Health Cooperative and Centerstone to provide School-Based Therapy also should be noted.”
Director of Schools Dr. Danny Weeks added that the school system and local law enforcement work well together to ensure a safe learning environment for all students.
“We are so appreciative of the relationship that the school system has with both the City of Dickson Police Department and the Dickson County Sheriff’s Office, who assist us in working through situations such as these,” Weeks said. “Safety is our first priority and our first responsibility to our staff and our students.”
Sorrells said the school system also is taking steps to enable staff to assist students in need.
“Practically every adult staff member in our district has been trained to recognize the social and emotional needs of our students,” Sorrells said. “Staff members including bus drivers, cafeteria staff as well as classroom teachers are working to remove these barriers to learning and have a network of resources to refer students who are in need of support.”
Because the records of juvenile court are sealed, it is not known what legal actions were taken against the three students cited for making the threats. School system policy states that once the case is adjudicated, the students who return to the school system face assignment to New Directions Academy for a term to be decided by the Disciplinary Hearing Authority.
“Students should take any threat of violence by a classmate seriously and report it immediately to a parent, teacher, administrator or school resource officer,” Lewis said. “This is one of the top reasons the City of Dickson has been committed to placing an SRO in every school in the city. These officers can develop a relationship of trust with students who will then be more willing to come forward with any potential threats.”
The Dickson County School System’s Student Handbook says threats to the safety or property of others are “so serious that they usually require immediate administrative actions, which result in the immediate removal of the student from the school, and/or the intervention of law enforcement authorities and/or action by the Board of Education.”