TRUSSVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — UPDATE NOV. 18: The ATF is offering a reward up to $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the explosive device left outside Magnolia elementary School. In addition, the Birmingham Crime Stoppers is offering a reward in the amount up to $5,000. You can remain anonymous. The contact number for Crime Stoppers is (205) 254-7777.
ORIGINAL: A group of parents from Magnolia Elementary School in Trussville were frustrated, Wednesday, to get news of a lockdown from television and social media–instead of from the school itself. Several expressed even more concern after learning that the ATF and FBI were involved after it was confirmed that explosives were actually detected.
“We received an e-mail last night and it just kind of talked around the issue,” explained 3rd grade parent, Christy Sherbrook. “It said something like, here at Magnolia we would like to thank the first responders, the police, the fire, our teachers, and staff for keeping our students safe. Absolutely [I] agreed. But that was it. It wasn’t like, hey parents let’s talk about this. Here’s what happened. Here’s what we did. Here’s why we chose not to notify you–and move forward from there.”
Several other parents mirrored those concerns on the Magnolia Elementary School’s Facebook post about the incident.
One read: I hate having to find out about this on Facebook. I think the parents should have been notified…these are our children in danger.
Another response suggested that there was a logical–even strategical reason parents weren’t immediately notified: I think notifications would have caused chaos! I’m glad they were kept safe and well cared-for! I think it was handled the correct way.
Sherbrook said she’s heard that suggestion, too–that the staff decided not the notify to parents so that they could make the children’s safety, emotional, and physical well-being their priority. She just wishes that she was hearing it from the school, itself. “Look, this is the day that we live in,” she said. “It could have been more serious. Disaster was averted. The first responders did a phenomenal job keeping our kids safe. We didn’t notify parents, here’s why. Perhaps give parents the opportunity to respond and say, well here’s our side.”
Magnolia Elementary first posted about the lockdown on Facebook around 11:30am on Wednesday:
Magnolia Elementary School is on lockdown and students are safe in the storm shelter. At this time, Trussville Police Department is investigation a suspicious package found in the carline. Please do not come to the school. Stay on this website for the all-clear information. Again, please do not come to the school.”
Superintendent Dr. Pattie Neill described Wednesday as a “sleepless night”. However, she acknowledged that it was also filled with e-mails from parents that were thankful for the way the incident was handled.
“I wanted the world to know that we took care of the children physically and emotionally,” she said. “The children were watching movies, having snacks, and having a good time during the time they were in the storm shelter.”
Dr. Neill also said they have been limited on what they can say, as the investigation is ongoing and they are taking advice from law enforcement. She said there was no reason to close or delay school–nor do they have reason to think that there is still a threat to the campus. “We had our procedures in place, and we followed our procedures,” she said. “They worked well, and law enforcement was pleased from their point of view as fathers and police officers.”
She also showed CBS 42 a ‘crisis binder’ full of instructions from the state department on how to handle any crisis incident. She said the school took action, as they had rehearsed. “Some of the parents were actually more panicked than the children,” Dr. Neill said. “So I know that there are one, two, or three parents that we need to talk to, and I’m glad to talk to them.” Dr. Neill also pointed out the other school leaders that were on campus during the lockdown including the principal and other board members. “When you come down to these kinds of questions, you’ve gotta get it to the proper individual.”
Parents like Sherbrook said in her gut, she doesn’t think that the situation is still posing a threat to the children. She’s also not ready to say that the system caused more chaos by not informing parents immediately of the lockdown. However,she feels as thought too much time has passed without a proper explanation.
Her concerns only grew, later, when she learned of the ATF and FBI involvement. “At this point, I’d love to give kudos to the teachers and the school and all of that, but I would like for some to talk to them, to my face and let me know–hey, this is what happened,” Sherbrook said. “This is why we made that decision. I’d like to express that it may not be our ‘right’ to be informed, but I believe we deserve to be informed that something was going on–so that we could act accordingly. Of course, not create a hysterical event, just so that we can process the information. Especially today. It’s a tough world that we live in, and I’m prayerful that this will be the last event of this sort…but we don’t know. So in the future, something like this goes on–it’d be nice to have something in place so that we know what’s going on.”
CBS 42 2016