Open Letter to the Maumelle Community from Maumelle Middle School Principal Charlotte Wallace:

"In the past several weeks, I have contacted Maumelle Middle School parents to advise them that there have been hand-written student notes — each by a different student — indicating the threat of a bomb that has required evacuation of the building and police searches. I’m writing today to let the community know how we have acted related to these incidents. The school and Pulaski County Special School District take these incidents very seriously. A bomb threat — even by a juvenile — is a felony[criminal offense]. Three of the students involved at the middle and high school were arrested and taken to juvenile jail. They are all recommended for expulsion. Maumelle Police Chief Sam Williams has spoken to our students in an assembly about the gravity of these notes, the potential for harm to students during an evacuation and the cost associated with them. We have appealed to our students to listen and watch for talk about copy-cat threats and to report them to a trusted teacher or administrator."

"We appreciate our parents’, the Maumelle Police Department’s and the community’s support through this challenging time, and we ask that you remember that these incidents are the result of a couple of students who have made very poor choices. Maumelle Middle School has 890 outstanding students who, on a day-to-basis, do what is right, work hard and are achieving great things. We have student organizations collecting crayons for Children’s Hospital, food for Rice Depot and necessities for the homeless. Academically, the Benchmark scores we received over the summer have risen significantly in every area. (As an example, in literacy they went up 10 points in sixth grade, 23 points in seventh grade and six points in eighth grade. And they’re up in math, too!) Our sports teams are practicing hard and winning games. If you stop at the school, you will witness students quietly reading in the library, using technology and enjoying lunch in the cafeteria. Basically, it’s business as usual."

"If you have any questions, feel free to call the school at 851-8990. Thank you again for your concern and continued support of Maumelle Middle School."

"Sincerely,

Charlotte Wallace

Principal, Maumelle Middle School"

Editor’s Note:

Teachers and school administrators have a very difficult job just trying to educate our students much less deal with sustained criminal behavior as demonstrated by the multiple incidents Principal Wallace referred to. Neither they nor the school resource officer or the security staff furnished by the Pulaski County Special School District are to blame for this criminal behavior. There is no way that one Maumelle police officer can keep up with 890 students. If there were ten police officers I doubt they could keep up with that many students. The problems here are not unique to a classroom in this day and time.

However, there are extenuating circumstances that may be contributing to this type of criminal behavior.

It serves no purpose to try and point blame at this organization or group. What is important is to get this criminal behavior under control before it escalates into something much worse and this applies to both schools — Maumelle Middle School and Maumelle High School.

We certainly have no expertise in this area but as outsiders we do recognize when the status quo is not working and we see and hear the concern from parents about their kids safety and we hear the frustration in those professionals involved on every level.

We’d like to propose that the school board in the case — Arkansas Department of Education director Tom Kimbrell — call a one-day summit as soon as possible at the school on the first Saturday possible. And that Kimbrell reach out to those who have experience dealing with juvenile criminals and attempting to control their behavior.

We would suggest that the U. S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, Chris Thyer be invited and encourage him to bring appropriate experts from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the ATF and any other federal agency with expertise in this area. While we’ve been fortunate that no explosive devices have been found, just the threat is a federal crime and how long before some crazy copycat trys the real thing.

We’d also suggest that Wal-Mart security experts be asked to donate their time along with private investigators and others skilled on the latest surveillance techniques and equipment. If Wal-Mart can read your credit card numbers with an overhead camera as you check out before you pass the card through a scanner — surely they can read a bomb threat note.

Some federal agencies even possess software to read expressions and body language to identify threats before they become known.

In other words — no shoe should be left unturned.

We have enough federal agents living in Maumelle alone to most likely handle this task force if they’re given permission to participate.

If this all seems like overkill to you — let us suggest you consider the alternative for just a few minutes. Have the fake threats become so commonplace we become complacent and expect every single one to be a hoax — just like the rest have been.

We pray that it never happens but as anyone who has ever had one iota of training in this area knows — it only takes one time to ruin your world and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

— Bill Lawson