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The Great Smoky Mountain Journal


Posted: Tuesday, January 01, 2019 02:34 PM

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Holston Middle School Parents Not Happy With Response To Threats

Missey and Lincoln Hurd sat smiling, talking about their day to day activities, but the most important chore of their lives Wednesday was finding out why they didn't know their sixth grader could've been in harm's way.

"For us not to be notified is completely unacceptable to me," Missey said. "I get phone calls all the time during inclement weather; my child's life is in danger, possibly in danger, nothing," Lincoln added.

Lincoln said he and his wife were left in the dark too long about a shooting threat at Holston Middle School on Thursday, February 15. Though officials said the threat was unfounded, parents said the lack of communication from the school pertaining to the threat was concerning.

"Unacceptable," Lincoln said. "That really infuriates me."

The Hurds caught wind of the shooting threat from others parents, not from the principal, who authorities said knew about it for more than 24 hours before speaking up. The principal did alert parents Friday afternoon just after 1 p.m.

Local 8 News reporter Donovan Long took the Hurds' concerns to the head of Knox County security.

"Is it protocol to not alert parents immediately, or do you wait a certain amount of time to alert parents of something of that magnitude?" Long asked.

"Typically, we do like to notify parents as quickly as we can, " said Gus Paidousis, Knox County schools security chief. "Sometimes, that's a school-based decision, based on a variety of factors."

Knoxville Police Department's Deputy Chief Garry Holliday also responded.

"You don't want to let them know late in the game," Deputy Chief Holliday said. "You want to get the information out, but you don't want to do anything to endanger an investigation or exacerbate a situation."

Long followed up and asked ask if the Holston Middle School principal waited too long to respond.

Paidousis said, "I can't speak to the principal's actions."

"A threat is a threat and there needs to be some sort of rule or guidelines that says immediate response is required," Missey said in response.

Lincoln agreed.

"I honestly don't think that's too much to ask for a 20 second message by text or voicemail," he said.

Authorities said principals and teachers will be required to revisit the school's safety plan. Until then, officials said every student is in good hands.

"They are safer than they are in the car that brought them to school, they are safer in that school than they are in a movie theater, they are safer at school than they are at the shopping center," Paidousis said. "They are safe."

"If they were safe, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now," Lincoln said.