By Bill Petzold
CARO — Authorities continue to investigate the actions of a 14-year-old male Caro High School student who allegedly compiled a list of students’ names — a list some parents are calling a “hit list.”
A press release from Caro Community Schools stated that “It was reported to our high school principal that a student had developed a list of students and potential actions toward them.”
“We became aware of the fact that there was a young man who had a list of names and things he was thinking could be done,” Caro schools superintendent Bruce Nelson said. “He didn’t take any overt action.
“We investigated immediately. We did a search, we talked to students … I can safely say that the investigtion wasn’t a cursory inspection, we took it seriously.”
The school press release continues that “The principal began an immediate investigation by meeting with the parents of the student who has been suspended indefinitely. The student has not been on campus since this came to our attention and district security measures are in place. All doors are secured and monitored as normal by intercoms.
“Due to the nature of the event, the police were notified and are coordinating an investigation with school officials. Even though the investigation is ongoing, Chief Newcomb of the Caro Police Department stated that they do not feel there is an immediate threat to anyone.”
Because of privacy laws, Nelson said that the school was unable to disclose much information about the student, including the nature of the punishment that would be handed down. When asked, he said the student had not had any serious prior disciplinary issues, and that it wasn’t a situation the school would have predicted.
“This type of action would have been a new thing (for the student),” Nelson said. “He’s been in trouble for the typical minor things kids do. His discipline record wouldn’t be that different from anybody else’s — nothing you would stand up and say, ‘Wow, look at that.’ I can say that we have looked at his past, and it’s not anything we look at and say, ‘Wow, we should have seen that coming.’ ”
Tuscola County prosecuter Mark Reene said Thursday an investigation by law enforcement is ongoing.
“We’re still working along and gathering information,” Reene said. “Obviously, it’s a situation of tremendous concern. Unfortunately, we’ve been confronted with this in the past, and there’s a protocol we go through to gather information and then make assessments in regards to the next steps.”
Reene said that the school and local authorities had good reason to be concerned after reading the contents of the seized documents.
“Basically part of the documents that were seized included a series of names,” Reene said. “I think the best way for me to address your question is to say that in reading the content of the other documents, it would be give me cause for beyond significant concern. The nature of what is written — without being able to get into specifics — is disturbing, to say the least.”
Reene said that from his standpoint it was too early to say if charges would be filed against the student or what type of disciplinary action would be taken.
“At this point it’s all about going through and making the assemesment and gathering information before any determinations are made along those lines,” Reene said.
Concerned parents took to social media to voice both praise for the school’s handling of the situation as well as some who felt the school could have done a lot more. A common complaint from parents was that they were not contacted by the school, but Nelson said that the school is limited by law in the information about students it may disseminate. Nelson said the school immediately called the parents of every student named on the list to notify them of the situation, but the school continues to receive calls asking if their child’s name was on the list. He said that the student takes the safety of its students as seriously as its duty to protect the rights of the student who allegedly wrote the list and other documents.
“What people don’t realize is there are some things we can’t do,” Nelson said. “For students, I’m required under federal law to safeguard certain information, so I can’t tell you or anyone else the name of the student, what discipline he might receive or what their story was. We take it very seriously; even if (the student says) ‘well it’s a joke,’ we still have to deal with it. I think it’s similar to someone who makes a stupid action, and then there’s all sorts of consequences.
“If this were your child, would you want us putting pictures of him up on telephone poles saying ‘watch out for this (dangerous) child?’ I’m still concerned about this young man and his place in society, because sooner or later he has to come back to some school or this school. The issue is, unfortunately, society also has a way of taking things out on collateral people, brothers, sister, mothers and fathers.”
The press release directs those with concerns or questions to call the Caro Community Schools central office at (989) 673-3160.
Bill Petzold is the editor of the Tuscola County Advertiser. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.