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Harns Marsh Middle teacher encourages students to be proactive

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 29, 2021


A Harns Marsh Middle School teacher encourages students to be proactive and share information with staff when something does not sound right.

Two Harns Marsh Middle School students, ages 13 and 14, were accused of plotting a school shooting. Lee County Sheriff Carmine Marceno said each face a charge of conspiracy to commit a mass shooting.

Laura Davis, a testing coordinator at Harns Marsh Middle School, said the day the incident happened they were short on teachers because of COVID, and they could not get any substitute teachers, so she was asked to cover a class during the lunch period. She said they had about 20 minutes before the end of the class when one of the boys, the 13-year-old, stood up and said something.

When he walked to the back of the classroom where his backpack was kept, Davis said students who were around him stood up in panic. She said the boy turned around and went back to the table laughing.

When Davis walked around to the back of the classroom she heard kids talking about a school shooting, which was then followed by a female student at the front of the classroom saying there was going to be a school shooting.

“I figured what (the boy) was doing was to pretend to go to the back of the classroom to get a gun to shoot,” she said.

Previous training with the Lee County Sheriff Department made Davis recall that they should call in a threat whether it is real, or a joke.

“Every year we do the online training for the active shooter and probably several years ago they started the really big training where they were talking about other shootings in the country,” Davis said. “We have deputies coming in and talking to us about the shooters and what to do. Typically it is about active shooters, not so much about what to do with a joke in the class. I remember one of my trainings they talked about taking everything seriously.”

She immediately, and very quietly, called for administration.

“Administration came right away,” she said, adding that it was the dean of behavior because she did not say what she wanted.

The rest of administration followed when Davis told him what transpired.

“When the first gentleman came, he pulled (the 13-year-old) out of the classroom and asked me to remove all the rest of the students and line them up in the hallway,” she said, adding that when the bell rang she then moved the students into the classroom next door. “He took (the boy) back to the classroom to question him there.”

Davis said it is really sad that more kids do not come forward with information. The students, on their laptops, have a place where they can go to give information to either a counselor or administration.

“The kids that spoke up, they came with their information after all of this had happened,” she said. “It would have been nice to know beforehand. Kids knew things were going on that wasn’t right. They need to do something.”

Davis said it could have been that kids really did not think it would have been carried out, or they want to hold back information, so others would not get in trouble.

“Part of being proactive is not clicking in their brain,” she said.

A map was found that contained markings indicating the location of each interior school camera and detectives learned that the two students were reportedly attempting to learn how to construct pipe bombs and how to purchase firearms on the black market. Search warrants were executed and guns and several knives were found. It was also found that the students took interest in the Columbine High School shooting.

Safety, Security & Emergency Management Executive Director David Newlan said during a Facebook Live meeting last week that it was an unfortunate incident, something they do not want to deal with, but has become a reality these days.

“We have to make it known that there are zero tolerance. Those that break the law will be held accountable,” he said.

Newlan said it can be a very traumatizing incident when going through a scenario like that, but it shows that training the district has in place works. He said they are in constant communication with law enforcement agencies they partner with.

To have standardized procedures and processes in place are very important because everyone has the tools that are required to respond to an incident.

“We will continue to do training to make sure our students are well protected,” Newlan said.

Something of importance, he said, is to always look at yourself and evaluate how you are doing and can things be made better. As a result additional safety measures have been put in place.

There are panic alarm systems put in every school and every building, which allows 9-11 to be called with just a hit of a button. The process expedites law enforcement response and staff on premise gets notified immediately of what to do, when to do it, and where the incident took place.

Another protocol put in place is Navigate 360, which Newlan said helps keep track of what schools are attending in a searchable database. He said if a student transfers to another school they have that information, as well as the history of that individual.

In addition, the hotline, See Something, Say Something, is also being used by law enforcement, so a person can remain anonymous of reporting something.

Newlan said they want to make sure kids are safe while the district is providing the best quality education at the same time.