Trussville school leaders under fire over handling of student’s ‘death note’

Some parents in Trussville, Alabama are calling for major changes after learning new details about how Hewitt Trussville High School and Trussville City Schools handled a disturbing ‘death notebook’ found in a student’s possession nearly a year ago. Learn more in the video above. Up until last week, the Hewitt-Trussville High’s SRO nor the Trussville Police Department knew about the incident, leaving many in the community frustrated with those in charge of keeping their children safe at school. “I don’t feel safe in our school system,” said one parent, Jessie Odell. “I don’t feel that we get clear communication.”Odell and other parents recently met the chief of police in a closed meeting to share their concerns and discuss the notebook that was found and reported by a teacher in October 2021. “We don’t want to end up with a Columbine,” said Odell, who is calling for changes in school leadership and for city leaders to take action.The notebook allegedly had a list of 30 students’ names and led to the student being charged with a felony, which has since been dropped due to the language of Alabama’s law on terroristic threats. For now, the case against the student is closed.”We need a new superintendent,” Odell said. “That’s what we’re calling on the city council and the mayor to do. If not, I have to question them for not seeing the urgency in this.”SUPERINTENDENT STATEMENT The office of Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill sent the following statement about the incident and what’s being done in response:”In October 2021, a teacher found a notebook with disturbing information at HTHS. The student was brought to the counselor’s office and met with the principal and counselor. The notebook was based on the Netflix series “Death Note” where a person can imagine someone’s death and supernaturally make it happen – for example, the person in the notebook might be eaten by ants, hit by a bus, hit by a ladder, drowning, etc. It was determined at that time by the principal and counselor and based on the information available that the notebook was fantasy and no further action was necessary other than confiscate the book and monitor the behavior of the student. The student completed the 2021-22 school year with no further disciplinary problems.”In light of the events surrounding Uvalde and as part of our ongoing safety plans, Mr. Salem and our SRO team implemented numerous safety protocols for the 22-23 school year. As such, when the events of last week came to light, the potential threat was acted upon immediately and the threat assessment protocol was fully implemented.”There has been a meeting with the City, Police Chief, superintendent, a school board member, and Tim Salem, principal of Hewitt-Trussville High School. Mr. Salem acknowledged this mistake and recognizes the error in not involving the SRO for threat assessment protocol in 2021. In hindsight, the SRO and central office administration should have been made aware of this book and TV series so the threat assessment protocol could be fully implemented.”Again, TCS is committed to continuing a safe school environment in all grade levels. All of our students are safe, every day. We are so grateful to have 7 SRO’s in 5 schools. In the coming weeks, we will once again review our safety protocols and work with Chief Rush and his officers to make sure all protocols are followed.”We understand that parents are concerned, we understand their disappointment and we are committed to improvement. School safety continues to be our 1st priority.”—MAYOR NEWS CONFERENCETrussville Mayor Buddy Choat held a news conference Tuesday to address school safety concerns in the city. Choat said there was a “total lack of communication” between school leaders and the city, including the police department. Watch the mayor’s presser below.Choat said the student who was found with the “death note” last year allegedly made a threat on Sept. 16, prompting the SRO and Trussville Police Department to investigate. Choat said the student admitted to making threats at school “at least 30 different times.”The student’s home was searched and Choat said police did not find anything other than a handgun belonging to the father. —Get the WVTM 13 app for the latest updates on this developing story.

Some parents in Trussville, Alabama are calling for major changes after learning new details about how Hewitt Trussville High School and Trussville City Schools handled a disturbing ‘death notebook’ found in a student’s possession nearly a year ago. Learn more in the video above.

Up until last week, the Hewitt-Trussville High’s SRO nor the Trussville Police Department knew about the incident, leaving many in the community frustrated with those in charge of keeping their children safe at school.

“I don’t feel safe in our school system,” said one parent, Jessie Odell. “I don’t feel that we get clear communication.”

Odell and other parents recently met the chief of police in a closed meeting to share their concerns and discuss the notebook that was found and reported by a teacher in October 2021.

“We don’t want to end up with a Columbine,” said Odell, who is calling for changes in school leadership and for city leaders to take action.

The notebook allegedly had a list of 30 students’ names and led to the student being charged with a felony, which has since been dropped due to the language of Alabama’s law on terroristic threats. For now, the case against the student is closed.

“We need a new superintendent,” Odell said. “That’s what we’re calling on the city council and the mayor to do. If not, I have to question them for not seeing the urgency in this.”

SUPERINTENDENT STATEMENT

The office of Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill sent the following statement about the incident and what’s being done in response:

“In October 2021, a teacher found a notebook with disturbing information at HTHS. The student was brought to the counselor’s office and met with the principal and counselor. The notebook was based on the Netflix series “Death Note” where a person can imagine someone’s death and supernaturally make it happen – for example, the person in the notebook might be eaten by ants, hit by a bus, hit by a ladder, drowning, etc. It was determined at that time by the principal and counselor and based on the information available that the notebook was fantasy and no further action was necessary other than confiscate the book and monitor the behavior of the student. The student completed the 2021-22 school year with no further disciplinary problems.

“In light of the events surrounding Uvalde and as part of our ongoing safety plans, Mr. Salem and our SRO team implemented numerous safety protocols for the 22-23 school year. As such, when the events of last week came to light, the potential threat was acted upon immediately and the threat assessment protocol was fully implemented.

“There has been a meeting with the City, Police Chief, superintendent, a school board member, and Tim Salem, principal of Hewitt-Trussville High School. Mr. Salem acknowledged this mistake and recognizes the error in not involving the SRO for threat assessment protocol in 2021. In hindsight, the SRO and central office administration should have been made aware of this book and TV series so the threat assessment protocol could be fully implemented.

“Again, TCS is committed to continuing a safe school environment in all grade levels. All of our students are safe, every day. We are so grateful to have 7 SRO’s in 5 schools. In the coming weeks, we will once again review our safety protocols and work with Chief Rush and his officers to make sure all protocols are followed.

“We understand that parents are concerned, we understand their disappointment and we are committed to improvement. School safety continues to be our 1st priority.”

MAYOR NEWS CONFERENCE

Trussville Mayor Buddy Choat held a news conference Tuesday to address school safety concerns in the city. Choat said there was a “total lack of communication” between school leaders and the city, including the police department. Watch the mayor’s presser below.

Choat said the student who was found with the “death note” last year allegedly made a threat on Sept. 16, prompting the SRO and Trussville Police Department to investigate. Choat said the student admitted to making threats at school “at least 30 different times.”

The student’s home was searched and Choat said police did not find anything other than a handgun belonging to the father.

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