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School lockdown raises questions

Mary Hinds maryhinds@lebanondemocrat.com • Updated Jul 26, 2013 at 10:00 PM

Who knew what and when did they know it? That seems to sum up a budding controversy about how information was handled before, during and after a lockdown at Lebanon High School last week.

Director of Schools Mike Davis said on the day of the incident, while there had been some vague threats made against Lebanon High School on Twitter, it wasn't until Friday the threats became specific, referencing a pep rally planned for the school that day. That specificity was what prompted school resource ffficers Walker Wood and Christine Self to recommend the school be put on a "soft" lockdown.  

The day of the incident, Lebanon police Chief Scott Bowen expressed displeasure his department was not notified sooner. At the time, Bowen said he had heard county school officials had known about threats on social media sites and had not informed city police.

Bowen said Tuesday, the bottom line was what happened that day.

"They locked down the school and didn't tell us," Bowen said. "That was the big issue with us. We had parents calling here, and we didn't know what had happened until dispatch called the school and was told about the lockdown."

As to the events leading up to the lockdown, Bowen again said he had word county school officials, including Safety Director David Burton, did have an inkling about a potential problem.

"We were told that David Burton knew two weeks ago about some threats, but they were investigating it themselves," Bowen said Tuesday.

The issue came to light after an email to The Democrat from Lebanon High School principal Myra Sloan. In the email, Sloan said she felt the original story about the lockdown was inaccurate and questioned Bowen's account that his department wasn't notified.

"The fact is that LPD Officer [Elvis] Huff was involved with the situation approximately three weeks ago and chose not to write a report, according to our SRO officers," Sloan wrote in the email.

In a statement, Sloan said her main concern was the safety of her students.

"The safety of our children is my number one priority.  If you do not have a safe environment, nothing else really matters.  I would like to thank Mr. Davis and our school board for being proactive in the fact that Wilson County schools had SRO officers many years before many other school systems," she said in the email. "I credit them with being progressive, ahead of the times and always looking out for the best interest of our students."

Bowen said Huff had called out to the school in January, but found there was no specific threat. Bowen said Huff and the school's SROs had spoken to a parent and a student, but there was no report made.

"To this day I don't know if that student was the same student who was involved in the incident on Friday," Bowen said. "No one has told us anything, so there is not reason for us to link the two incidents."

Bowen said his department has an excellent relationship with the school system, the sheriff's department and the SROs. In this case, he just wants to make sure he has the information he needs to answer questions tossed his way.

"We just need to have information in case parents call us like they did last Friday," Bowen said.

Wilson County Sheriff Robert Bryan said he felt everyone did the best they could in a fluid situation.

"We were in communication with everyone that day," Bryan said. "With that social media stuff, things get out of hand very quickly. We got information prior to the pep rally, and it came up very fast."

Bryan said when Lebanon dispatchers called the school, there was no decision made about the lockdown. He also praised the work of Lebanon officers for responding to the situation.

"I want to compliment the police department and their response. I applaud it," Bryan said, adding his department also had deputies on stand-by should anything happen. "Everybody came through like we were supposed to."

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