‘We are in terror’: Trussville parents angry over school system ‘mismanagement’ of student ‘death notebook’

Parents of Trussville High School students, including several whose children were named in a “death notebook,” expressed frustration Tuesday night at what they called the school system’s “mismanagement” of the threat.

“Our lives have been turned upside down,” said a mother, who said her son was among 37 students whose names appeared in the notebook during Tuesday night’s Trussville City Council meeting.

“Any time there’s a loud noise … we get scared in our house,” she said. “We don’t sleep, we haven’t rested.”

A parent who said their child attends class with the student who allegedly made the threat said the city and school system have a “moral obligation to protect our children.”

“The next time you get together with parents and students, you don’t want it to be at a funeral,” he said.

After investigating a recent threat that the student planned to “do harm at the school,” police discovered that at least three Trussville School staff members knew about the student’s “death notebook” for nearly a year and had not reported it , city officials told reporters earlier Tuesday.

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The notebook contained the names of 37 classmates he allegedly intended to kill.

The student was charged with a felony, but the case was dropped under an Alabama terrorist threats statute. He will not be identified because he is a juvenile and there is no pending case at this time.

Police confirmed the student is no longer in high school and is receiving counseling.

Headmaster Tim Salem is now also on administrative leave, according to an email sent to parents on Tuesday.

“We dodged a bullet. I’m really serious about that,” Mayor Buddy Choat said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “We dodged a situation where we wouldn’t need this meeting today if it had been handled properly.”

A spokesman representing several parents told the council Tuesday night that policies needed to be rewritten, including the memorandum of understanding between Trussville Police Department and the city’s schools.

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The code of conduct threat assessment protocol for students, the spokesperson said, “must include law enforcement,” adding that the school administration is “woefully unqualified” to conduct threat assessments.

He also said the council must force the school board to take action against the student who reportedly made the threats before the student returns from 20 days at an alternative school.

The parents said they would not feel safe if the student was allowed to return to high school.

“If that kid goes back to that school, my kid won’t go back. I will not risk my child’s life,” said one.

Another criticized schools in the district for failing to communicate that their buildings were safe after the “Death Notebook” was unveiled.

Councilwoman Lisa Bright said that while the panel did not appoint school officials, she apologized for how the situation was being handled.

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“I feel like you need to apologize for the lack of communication … I want you to know that we all recognize that communication needs to be direct and immediate,” she said. “We don’t know how it broke. I wish I could give you these answers.”

A teacher at a Trussville school told the council that many of her peers are behind parents.

“I don’t care if I get fired tomorrow, but at some point I have to get up,” she said.

The teacher said she shares the view of parents who believe Salem was made a scapegoat.

“I think he was thrown under the bus,” she said.

The teacher claimed a group text was circulating urging district staff to call in sick Wednesday in protest.

“Tomorrow I will be one of the staff members who calls in sick,” she said.