Trussville City leaders attempt to quell concern following discovery of “death notebook” that listed 37 students

Trussville mayor on school safety
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 9:04 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 29, 2022 at 11:25 AM CDT
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TRUSSVILLE, Ala. (WBRC) - Trussville city leaders and police are now working to answer your questions regarding a “death notebook” that included the names of 37 Trussville students. The mayor says that the list was found last October, and they only found out about it because a school resource officer heard that another student was threatened.

Thursday morning Trussville City Schools released this letter from the Vice President of the Trussville City Schools Board of Education.

Mayor Buddy Choat tell us that only three faculty members knew of the death list’s existence: a teacher, guidance counselor and the high school principal, a fact that Mayor Choat says is unacceptable.

“There is no reason for this not to have been reported other than an error in judgement,” said Mayor Choat.

Police Chief Eric Rush met with parents over the weekend to answer questions and address concerns, and today he voiced his frustration with the fact that the perceived threat was not shared with his department.

“We can only do and respond to things that we are made aware of. So yea, I have been frustrated for over a week. It has been a long week and a half,” said Chief Rush.

Mayor Choat pointed to how quickly the police department jumped on the threat that was made Friday Sept. 16 in an effort to reduce community concern.

“Immediately after we were notified, the plan of action occurred in less than 24 hours. Everything had been brought to the forefront by then and I think that is important for our parents to know. That if we are notified, how quickly these things can be resolved,” said Mayor Choat.

Several parents believe they are not getting the true story, and that either school board members or the superintendent were aware of the death notebook. Still High School Principal Tim Salem has now been placed on Administrative Leave.

Either way, the parents remain frustrated and concerned for their children’s safety.

“Distraught of course. I think any parent would be distraught if you found out your kid was named in a death list,” said parent Nathan Pruet.

Some say the incident has left a bad taste in their mouth and are only staying due to their faith in law enforcement.

“I am putting my trust in our police force. My son is only in Trussville City Schools because he has an amazing teacher. Once he graduates we are done,” said parent and Trussville City Schools Parents Staying Informed speaker Jessie Odell.

Others are hoping that district learns from this incident, and takes all potential threats seriously moving forward.

“I hope they are taken more seriously and reported more. Whether they are intended to be real or not in today’s times we cannot take the chance by not thoroughly investigating and making sure is it not an actual threat,” said parent Christi Jones.

Some parents tell us they will attend Tuesday’s City Council meeting to try and ensure this communication failure will not happen again.

“The lack of transparency, the lack of clarity with in the policies and procedures from the board of education within the threat assessment protocol and the student code of conduct, the M.O.U being too loose to allow something like to happen going forward. All of those three items in particular is what has to change,” said Pruet.

Mayor Choat says the superintendent offered to do a joint conference on Monday but he believes they need to hold one of their own.

“I felt like it was better that they have their conference. They take responsibility for what they are going to do and how they want to do it. I wanted it to be separate in case there was a question on where the city stands on this issue, so it was really my suggestion yesterday that we do separate interviews,” said Mayor Choat.


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