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Students arrested for death threats at Alternative School

By Greg Gelpi

Death threats between rival gang members at the Clayton County Alternative School triggered arrests Wednesday.

Roderick Lemar Didone, 17, and a 16-year-old juvenile from Forest Park were arrested and charged with making terroristic threats and disrupting a public school. According to a Clayton County police report they threatened to kill people at the Alternative School and made motions as if to get a gun.

"The witnesses stated the offenders yelled that they were going to kill everybody," Officer Ronald Stern stated in his report. "They then yelled out that they were going to get a gun out of the trunk of the car. Both of the offenders went to the back of the vehicle, opened the trunk and made the motion of attempting to get a gun."

A fight had broken out between rival gang members around dismissal time Wednesday, one teacher said. About 20 high school students rushed out the back door of the school, yelling for students to get to their cars and several students ran for a particular car, raising concern that there could be a gun.

When police responded, Didone and the juvenile had left in a white Cadillac Seville. Police stopped the car near Ga. Highway 54 and Interstate 75, but found no gun.

The school resource officer assigned to the Alternative School was at a doctor's appointment and wasn't on campus at the time of the incident, Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said.

"Resources are limited," Turned said, explaining that one officer is assigned to each middle and high school.

No one else is available if the school resource officer is sent to court or is away for other reasons, he said.

Lt. Greg Porter, the commander of the School Resource Officer Program, spoke with Assistant Superintendent Sam King last week about the possibility of the school system funding more officers.

The school system pays 75 percent of the salaries of the officers and the Clayton County Police Department pays 25 percent, Porter said. The school system has paid 100 percent of the costs of adding two more officers since then.

"Some schools need two officers or more," Turner said. "He was trying to do something proactive."

Clayton County schools spokesman Charles White said that there were a "series of fights" that broke out at the time of dismissal.

Superintendent Barbara Pulliam has said she won't tolerate school violence, White said.

"I think she has been consistent in saying that she's not going to tolerate disruptive behavior in our schools," he said. "If they continue to make poor choices, they are going to find themselves involved with the judicial system."

The Alternative School has implemented a point system to reward and punish students, but that system has left teachers feeling unsafe, citing the latest incident as an example of the lack of effectiveness of the new procedures.

One teacher wrote to school officials, including Pulliam, putting the school system on notice of the impending dangers at the school and expressing fear to teach in the school.