Caro schools, law enforcement officials investigate threats at Caro High School

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 petzold@tcadvertiser.com.


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  • william william

    Thank you, I was so shocked at what atkerson said, I could hardly speak. You sum it up very well. I thought the school had a “no tolerance”. What this kid did is a “Hate crime” or a “terrorist act” to say the least and should be proscuted as such. And the school for there lapse in time in reporting this to law enforcement should be ashamed. I’m sure the kid who had the list is having problems, but thats not a reason to ignore what he did, an example is all those other schools where there children were killed.

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  • satkerson

    As stated “without all the details revealed”, I wish that people without firsthand knowledge of the situation would quit blaming everything on Caro schools and their administration.

    WITH firsthand knowledge, I am comfortable in knowing that the school, the teachers, the administration, and the police all handled this matter VERY seriously. This is something that needs to be fully investigated by those in charge before any potential actions are taken or the public is made aware. Why start a full blown panic, as we have seen played out on Facebook and the news, without the true knowledge of what is happening??

    From everything I have ever seen, from both sides of the “bullying” issue, Caro schools DOES take it seriously!! But why are we so quick to term everything bullying?? Oh, he was bullied that is why he did it. Oh, he calls my son names he is a bully. Oh, I heard a friend of a friend say this or that, she’s a bully. Yes, bullying occurs, but sometimes it is just “harmless childhood antics” or kids being kids!! I can’t imagine being a “kid” in today’s world where everything you say or do is being analyzed by some adult to make sure we shouldn’t term them as a “bully”!

    With that being said, this CHILD who had this list might just need some help! He doesn’t need to have the entire community pointing fingers at him, and making rash judgements about him. Those CHILDREN who were on this list don’t need to live their lives in fear, they need to continue being KIDS and enjoying this time in high school. And we as PARENTS need to be involved in our children’s education and safety, but we can’t be helicopter parents. Children need to live……and I mean live free, live fun and enjoy this carefree time because once they become adults, that part of life is gone!!

    I, for one, thank Caro Community Schools, Mr. Nelson and Mr. Joslyn for handling this the way it was handled. My children will continue to attend Caro schools, because they can receive a good education, they can be as safe as society allows and then they can enter the adult world prepared for what comes next!!!

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  • william william

    Boy oh boy, well put, I hope everyone reads what you wrote. God Bless you.

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  • BJS3D

    Without all the details revealed, this is all speculation but what I can attest to is that Caro High School policies used to be such that bullying was seemingly dismissed as “harmless childhood antics”.

    If this is still the case yet today and students still know that they cannot rely on the administration for defense or even concern, is it so difficult to see how desperate victims wandering the halls can escalate situations into desperate threats against those who are given free reign to abuse them? When forced to defend ones’ self without intervention, there is no real limit to what can play out. A victimized student is a ticking time bomb just waiting for that final push to go off the deep end.

    One would think that, if this is still the status quo, the administration would want to mitigate the absolute risks by taking the root causes of these escalations just as seriously and acting in a responsible manner long before “hit lists” and weapons enter the situation.

    Of course, punishing the victims for being forced into desperate situations due to the failures of the administration is always the just solution. Barring sarcasm, this is exactly why Caro Community Schools will never be offered a donation from this end. Although the teaching staff was and may still be admirable, the administration appears to be just as careless and irresponsible as it always has been.

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  • william william

    What was the time gap from the time the school knew and when they called police?

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