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Update: Burwell Cancels School, NSP Takes over "Hit List" Investigation

By: 1011 Central Nebraska News Email
By: 1011 Central Nebraska News Email

A so-called hit list caused the Burwell Junior/Senior High School School Board to cancel classes Tuesday. Now, the investigation of the threat is being turned over to the Nebraska State Patrol.

Burwell officials say the shift was necessary due to limited manpower and resources at the local level. The change will permit local officers to focus on providing increased security at the school while addressing other law enforcement concerns in the community.

Several parents and community members gathered at Burwell Junior/Senior High Monday night to voice their concerns over a so-called "hit list." It ended with the board voting to cancel school Tuesday so that Principal David Owen can meet with faculty to come up with a plan of action.

The board decided that effective immediately, Burwell Junior/Senior High will be a closed campus and the students will have their purses and backpacks checked upon entering campus.

The Burwell Public School's website notes there will be a student assembly at both Burwell Elementary and Burwell Jr.-Sr. High School at the beginning of the school day on Wednesday. The website says parents are invited to sit in on the assembly. The purpose of the assemblies will be to update the students about the rule changes that will go into effect immediately.

School officials are admitting they did not handle the situation and if they could do it over again, they would do it differently.

Principal Owen was under fire Monday for not immediately telling parents about a letter that threatened student safety. Owen says he handled the threat in a way he thought was right -- by sending an alert to parents on Sunday evening.

However, parents of the kids on the list say they should have been notified on Friday afternoon, just a short time after school officials and authorities were made aware of the letter. School officials say they were under the impression that law enforcement was handling contacting teachers and students. The school feels they did everything else necessary to ensuring safety at school.

Burwell school officials say they're already taking steps in making sure communication is improved in the future. But many parents are still angry, saying they don't feel student safety is a priority.

The Garfield County Attorney says, officers spent much of Thursday afternoon and Friday at the school, and on Monday morning, officers were again on hand at the school to provide increased security, collect evidence and interview potential witnesses. An increased police presence at the school is anticipated until the matter is resolved.

The Garfield County Attorney says, the unsigned, handwritten note was critical of certain Burwell school administration officials, faculty members and students, naming several individuals.

The note did not specify a particular threat or indicate what harm, if any, could befall those named in the list. Nevertheless, law enforcement and school officials are taking the threat seriously.


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