During public input at last week’s Moore County School Board meeting, an incident was addressed in which a fourth grade student threatened four classmates with violence with a gun. Two of the four victims’ parents, Chris Limbaugh and Kaleigh Hatfield, shared with the board the events that had transpired since the incident. Due to the sensitivity of the matter and maintaining neutrality during the ongoing situation, The News has reached out to parties involved and received statements from the victims’ parents, the Director of Schools, the Moore County School Board and the LES Principal. As is policy, MC School Board Chair Ed Cashion is the official spokesperson on behalf of the board. Some statements have been edited for length and redundancy but no pertinent information has been excluded.
Lynchburg Elementary Parent Chris Limbaugh-“On 1/4/23, I received a call from LES Principal Brooke Lindsey regarding an incident that occurred in which several students were talking, and one of them mentioned he would shoot a handful of other students in the class and listed them by name, my son's name being one of them. My wife and I met with (Mrs. Lindsey) on 1/5/23 and she reassured us the situation was being handled and the appropriate two day out of school suspension was given to the student. She could not confirm to me whether the student admitted to making the remarks or if this was an accusation by a third party, nor could she articulate how she arrived at two day OSS and the criteria she used to make that decision. In our eyes, this is not an appropriate disciplinary action; when referencing the LES handbook 2022-2023, a level IV misbehavior is defined as: “Acts which result in violence to another’s person or property or which pose a threat to the safety of others in the school. These acts are so serious that they usually require administrative actions which result in the immediate removal of the student from the school, the intervention of law enforcement authorities and action by the Board.”
Included as examples of this type of misbehavior is “death threat or hit list”, with the disciplinary actions listed as: “Expulsion, Alternative schools, or other hearing authority or Board action which results in appropriate placement.”
From the information we know, our perspective, and the student that made the comments, this is a serious issue. The administration has handled this situation less severely than anticipated and we would like to know why. I do not intend for this to be a jab at the staff at LES; we love this community, the people, and the schools and I believe everyone at LES cares for and loves their students as their own. Rather, I am hoping for more insight… on why this is not as serious of an event as we believe it to be (being as we do not have all the information).
Lynchburg Elementary Parent Kaleigh Hatfield- “On January 3, my daughter (and three other students) was threatened by a fellow classmate. This classmate asked a group of students, “If you could shoot anyone, who would it be?” After the other children stated no one, he then said, “Well I would shoot…” and proceeded to name four, fourth grade students. We, along with one other set of parents of a victim who heard the threat, were notified of this “incident” by Principal Lindsey that afternoon. We were assured it was being handled. It came to our attention later, because of my husband’s position (county sheriff), that our SRO had charged this child and was taking him to court. After researching the child, we became very concerned because he has access to various weapons, as seen on his mother’s Facebook page. In court on January 10, the judge ruled that the child remain in alternative school until April 3. On January 19, our daughter came home and told us this child was back in her classroom as normal. Obviously, we became even more concerned knowing that the school administrators had not followed through on the court order.
After hours and hours researching federal and state laws regarding educational policy, I met with our District Attorney and began to pursue justice for our children. The child who made the threat was involved in another incident (not towards a student, but still a violent act) at school on January 30. This, along with the initial court ruling not being followed, warranted another court appearance on January 31. At this hearing the judge recused himself and appointed another judge to take over.
On Thursday, February 2, we (me, my husband, and the DA) met with our superintendent after being told several times that he nor Principal Lindsey could discuss this matter with us because it involved another child. During this meeting it became known that two sets of parents of the victims were not notified of this situation AT ALL because “those children didn’t hear the threat, so was it even really a threat?” Per the superintendent.
The day after our meeting and a whole month after the threat was made, the superintendent finally reached out to the other parents and let them know the incident happened and that the child would be in court for the 3rd time on Tuesday, February 7.
The court system has been diligent in taking this situation seriously, as have the parents of the offender. It is my strong opinion that our school system has completely failed in this situation. As a parent it has made me question how our school is being run and what has happened over the years that no one was aware of. And God forbid what could happen in the future if this is not addressed. Please go to your elected school board member and voice your concerns. I will also be attending every school board meeting. I would encourage you to also attend so we, as parents, can ensure our children are protected and the people in leadership roles with our school system are held accountable.”
Moore County School Board Chairperson, Ed Cashion- "The school board appreciates the input at the last board meeting. We take all of your concerns seriously and understand that what was described in the meeting was alarming to parents. We all have family and loved ones in our school buildings.
The administration followed procedures to make sure students were, indeed, safe. Though we cannot be specific because of the student privacy laws, be assured that the possibility of additional danger was diffused through measures taken at the school level.
The school board will be working with the director of schools and school administration to review and develop improved protocols for notifications when an incident occurs and when it should be reported to parents as allowed by state and federal laws. As a board, we will continue to work to ensure that our school district staff is provided the resources and training to maintain a safe school environment.
The school board, the director of schools, and school administrators will work diligently to make changes when necessary so that students are not only safe, but parents can have confidence in our efforts to ensure their safety."
Lynchburg Elementary School Principal Brooke Lindsey- “The safety and security of students at Lynchburg Elementary School has been and always will be our top priority. Over the past few weeks, many in our community have expressed questions and concerns regarding a recent incident at our school, and as your LES Principal, I want to ensure you that this situation was taken seriously and addressed immediately- with appropriate disciplinary action taken to protect all students and staff. I also understand that many of you may have questions around the specifics of the steps that were taken. As recently stated by our Director of Schools, "We are working on a plan to be able to communicate information without violating the rights of students involved." While waiting on this information, I want you to know that district leaders, teachers, and all of our staff will continue working with our school resource officer and the Moore County Sheriff’s Department to keep our school safe. As a parent of LES students myself, I am asking for your trust and confidence as we work through this process and know that I am committed to your children's safety while in our care.”
Moore County Director of Schools Chad Moorehead- "Our school system takes school safety and security very seriously. This situation was addressed immediately and, as the school board’s legal counsel stated, in compliance with state and federal laws. As a school system we are currently reviewing our processes for handling similar situations as well as scheduling additional training for school administrators in this area. What we have all learned in this situation is that our lines of communication, especially with other departments in the county, can always be improved upon. As a school system we have to balance the information that the community feels it needs with the state and federal confidentiality laws that protect the rights of our students. We are working on a plan to be able to communicate the information that we can without violating the rights of our students. I think that the most important thing to remember is that no one was physically harmed in this situation. Our number one priority has been and continues to be student safety."