By Greg Gelpi and Ed Brock
On the same day the principal at Lovejoy High School was defending not telling parents about a Columbine-type threat at the school, another student across the county was arrested for making a threat. And authorities said there was also a third incident involving a student who is being disciplined but was not arrested in an unrelated incident at the second school, Morrow Middle.
A 14-year-old student at Morrow Middle School was arrested Wednesday in connection with a call 911 dispatchers received Tuesday in which the caller said, "There's going to be a murder at Morrow Middle School," Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said. Another student at the school faced a school tribunal after threatening a teacher two weeks ago, Turner said.
Nearly two weeks after a student was arrested for planning a shooting spree at Lovejoy, its principal issued a statement and notified parents for the first time.
The incident only came to light after the News Daily reported it this week.
"I share your concern and I want to assure you that your child was never in any danger," Principal S. Michael Duncan stated in a letter to parents Wednesday. "The LHS administrative team routinely handles an assortment of student discipline issues, and we have procedures to handle these matters in a quick and efficient manner without distracting the learning environment. In short, the system worked."
Many families and friends of students, though, felt the system failed them.
"Our school system has been on the downslide for the past 10 years," said Sandra Jones of Lovejoy. "We're in real trouble here, real trouble."
Her neighbor has a daughter who goes to Lovejoy.
Jones holds the school system from top to bottom responsible for the rash of violence.
"They act unruly themselves," she said of the Clayton County School Board. "I'm glad my child is not in school. I have grandchildren in school, but they are in another county."
Jones said that her grandchildren don't experience such violence in Henry County.
A Lovejoy man whose sister attends the high school there said.
"I think they should have told us sooner. I just thought it was some sort of prank or something. You never know with kids these days."
One Lovejoy parent knows Duncan and trusts his judgment in this type of situation when its comes to her daughter.
"If other incidents occurred that I'm not aware of, I'm not concerned about it," Connie Yancey said. "As a parent, I'm not worried about it."
Yancey expressed more concern with the welfare of the suspect than the welfare of her daughter, putting faith in the safety of the Clayton County school system.
She didn't learn of the incident until her daughter came home and told her about it, she said.
"From what I know, it was handled really well," Yancey said. "I'm glad that it's not made too much of a public matter when it's a child that is 14 years old."
She and her daughter discussed the issue "extensively," Yancey said, adding that her daughter was concerned she may have missed some signals and wanted to help the suspect.
The school board supports the action of Duncan and his staff and plans no action at this time, said a board member.
"To my knowledge, all of the policies were followed at Lovejoy," Clayton County School Board member Barbara Wells said. "Anytime we have an incident like this the administration will review its policies for better ways of doing things."
Wells, whose two sons at one time attended Clayton County schools, would not comment as to how she would feel if it was her sons in school during such an incident.
On Sept. 18, a 14-year-old Lovejoy student was arrested on charges of making terroristic threats, disrupting school and conspiracy to commit murder and taken to a youth detention center, Turner said following the arrest.
Students alerted authorities that a classmate was attempting to recruit them to help kill the principal and several students.
Witnesses told police of a plan to pull a fire alarm, block doors and shoot students as they exited classrooms, turning the school into another Columbine. They also told police of a map with details of the planned massacre, which is reminiscent of the Columbine school shooting in which 15 people were killed in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999.
Within minutes of learning of the incident, Clayton County police removed him from campus, Duncan said in his statement.
In his statement Wednesday, Duncan praised the two students who told school officials about the plot.
"I applaud the courage of the two students who came forward with this information," Duncan said.
Repeated phone calls to the Clayton County School Superintendent of Education's office were not returned by press time.
In Tuesday's incident at Morrow Middle the call was made around 3:50 p.m. from a cell phone, Turner said, and investigators were able to trace the call to determine the customer who owned the phone. The customer had a 14-year-old daughter at the school who, when questioned, told police that she had lent the phone to the boy who was arrested.
Turner said the boy then told police that he was the one who made the call. He has been charged with making a false statement, disrupting school and making a false report of a crime.
In the other incident, a 12-year-old 6th-grader called a homework assignment hotline and told the teacher he answered "(Obscenity) you, you're going to die." Turner said the teacher did not press charges against the boy but he was transferred out of the school after facing the tribunal.
The boy knew who he was talking to and was a student of the teacher, Turner said, but no motive has been established.
"The only thing he said was that his conscience told him to call her and say that," Turner said.
Because they are all juveniles, the names of those involved in the incidents were not released.