JCPS: Despite increased security, 'vague' threat drops attendance to 45.5%

JCPS: Despite increased security, 'vague' threat drops attendance to 45.5%

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) -  The Louisville Metro Police Department called Wednesday's threat against unspecified educational institutions "vague," while Jefferson County Public Schools called it a "nonspecific threat."

But Thursday's warning produced the lowest JCPS attendance (45.5 percent), likely comparable, or worse, than the early days of desegregation and court-ordered busing 40 years ago, Friday.

"We had school today, and half our students learning," Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens said.

District-wide, 54.5 percent - more than 51,000 JCPS students - stayed home. Almost three-quarters - 74 percent - of students at Atherton High School showed up, but only 25.29 percent made it to class at Slaughter Elementary.

By comparison, average JCPS attendance last month topped 93 percent.

Concerns weren't enough to prevent Chris Rasheed from accompanying his eighth-grade daughter Kamyah to Meyzeek Middle School.

"I feel like we have solid security here," he said.

"I've never had to deal with something like this," Kamyah Rasheed said. "This is the first time, at Level 3. I don't even know what a Level 3 is!"

"Level 3" security doesn't involve lock-downs or a more visible police presence, Hargens said.  Rather, it's more vigilance.

"Students wouldn't go outside, nor spend time in the hallways. Everything's just at a higher sense of awareness," she said. "It's an overabundance of caution, but safety is our top priority. And the final decision on whether to send their children rests with parents."

"I don't want my child to be frightened to go to school," Ashley McCrary said.

Minutes earlier, McCrary had shared a podium with Hargens and Mayor Greg Fischer, as JCPS announced that a $500,000 gr ant would expand a Kindergarten Readiness Camp that her daughter, D'Nya, 6, attended prior to enrolling in Greenwood Elementary.

[RELATED STORY: JCPS Kindergarten Readiness Camp to expand]

McCrary kept D'Nya and her twin-brother Darren home from school Friday.

"Not knowing which school the threat was for, and not having a vehicle to get to a school to get my child, I didn't want to take any chances," she said. "They're my babies."

Cedric White drove his child to Meyzeek on Friday morning.

"I think it's really just a copy-cat type thing," he said. "Everybody just wants a little bit of notoriety and attention."

Chris Rasheed thought the responsible party might be a student tired of being bullied, but his daughter suspects it's an adult playing mind games to spread fear.

"They're trying to say 'We have enough resources to go into your schools and we can do whatever we want,'" Kamyah Rasheed said.

"To prevent this many students from learning, and to disrupt learning is a big deal," Hargens said. "This could result for somebody an arrest and for prosecution."

Threatening, "is a big deal and we certainly hope the person who made the threat is found," Hargens added.

"We have master teachers ready to teach, that's the real loss," she continued. "Students can't afford to lose days."

Fewer teachers were absent Friday than typical, JCPS reported. About eight percent of teachers called in for substitutes.

JCPS will return to normal security measures (Level 2) Monday, "unless extraordinary circumstances dictate," Hargens said.

"They need to go after whoever's doing this," McCrary said. "That is no way to live in our community, in our world, for our children to be frightened and scared, for parents to feel like they can't go to work, it's ridiculous."

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