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District officials still looking for message writer

Paris School Superintendent Wayne Fawcett said last week that district officials are still looking for the Paris Elementary School student who wrote the words “bomb thret” in a girls bathroom last week at the school.

The threat, similar to others that have been found at schools in western Arkansas lately, was found around 3 p.m. on Monday, April 14. The threat was deemed “not credible” by Fawcett, school resource police officer Mike Hayne, Paris Police Chief John O’Brien and school Principal Alan Anderson. As a consequence, the school day ended normally and the building was searched several times. Nothing was found.

“We have investigated and we’re going to continue to keep our ears to the ground,” Fawcett said last week. “We’re going to continue to hope that someone who saw it will come forward or someone will talk. We believe we know who did it. Once that is verified, we’ll take disciplinary action according to our policy.”

Fawcett said a photograph of the bathroom message was compared to samples of students’ handwriting.

Fawcett said there were several reasons the message was considered not credible.

“It was non-specific, not directed at any one person and not specific as to time,” Fawcett said. “We all agreed it was not a credible threat.

“If we had thought it was a credible threat, we would have taken action, regardless of when it was discovered,” Fawcett said.

Fawcett said Haney and O’Brien searched the school building around 3 p.m. Monday, April 14. The school was searched again Monday night after students, teachers and staff went home for the day.

Students were dismissed beginning at 3:05 p.m., which is normal, Fawcett said. They were not told about the threat at that time. After meeting with district principals, Fawcett, using a computerized system, contacted every student, parent and staff member around 5 p.m. Monday, April 14 and told them about the incident.

The restroom where the words were written is primarily used by third and fourth grade girls, Fawcett said. The school has 440 students in Pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade. Fawcett said the writing was discovered by a student who reported it to building officials.

Fawcett said an additional police officer has been present at the school in the mornings. Fawcett also said bathrooms in the district’s three campuses are being checked after every class change. Video cameras in school hallways have been redirected so that entrances to bathrooms can be monitored. Teachers have also told to minimize bathroom breaks during class time, Fawcett said.

“Our first priority is the safety of our students and staff,” Fawcett said. “We take even the slightest indication of danger seriously.

“We will appropriately discipline students that may commit such acts as this, and further, we will seek prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.”

Similar threats have been found in schools in northwest Arkansas and Ozark recently, Fawcett said.

“Maybe a kid saw something on TV and decided to do something funny,” Fawcett said.

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