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Terroristic threat prompts school cancellations
JASPER COUNTY- by Haley Bull
Idle school buses, deserted parking lots and empty classrooms, the scene of the Evadale School District community shuttered for the day.
"Crazy times we live in today. You know you don't think it's gonna happen in your small community," Jeff Williams said. His daughter is a fourth grader in the school district.
The empty campus was the result of a terroristic threat.
The Jasper County Sheriff's Office arrested a man accused of making the threat that led to the cancellation of school Thursday in Evadale.
Deputies, ATF agents and the U.S. Marshal's service arrested the man Thursday morning at his home in Harris County. He faces a charge of making a terroristic threat at a public place. If convicted, the suspect could face up to two years in a state jail.
Sheriff Mitchel Newman walked the 32-year old suspect into the Jasper County jail Thursday afternoon. Investigators won't release his name until a judge arraigns him Friday morning.
While parents await more information, they support the decision to cancel school in Evadale.
"You hear about it on the news and other schools. When it happens to yours you know, you're kind of shocked," Williams said.
Had the day gone as planned, his daughter would have enjoyed Christmas parties until early dismissal for the holiday break.
"It's kind of unfortunate, but you know the kids' safety comes first," Williams said.
With safety in mind, administrators canceled classes.
"In this day and time we have to take every threat seriously, you know. Probably ten years ago or so we may not have gone to this extreme," Evadale ISD superintendent Gary Fairchild said.
"With all the recent things that have happened not only in Texas but in other states as well, the safety of our kids is paramount," he said.
The superintendent sent an automated telephone message to parents late Wednesday night alerting them of the threat. He added one more message with the alert.
"I told them have a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. That's not really the way you want to end school before the holidays, but that's just the nature of where we were at that time," Fairchild said.
Students now have extra vacation time while deputies keep watch over just about empty campuses.
"We're checking the doors, we're checking the outside area and anything that looks out of the ordinary," Deputy Cal Morgan with the Jasper County Sheriff's Office said.
Constable Joe Sterling patrols the campus every day.
"I will be just as alert as we always were. We always look at the safety aspect of these children at these schools on a daily basis," he said.
Now and when the students return, a comforting thought for parents.
"I feel perfectly safe with my daughter coming here," Fairchild said.
He feels safe even in the wake of a threat that will keep his daughter and other students away until after the holiday break.
Investigators said the same threat also prompted the Warren School District to send students home early Thursday, but are not revealing publicly how the threat is linked to Warren Schools.