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School under modified lockdown after runaway allegedly makes threat

By Bayne Hughes 340-2432

SOMERVILLE — Sparkman School spent the past two days under, and continues under, modified lockdown as authorities search for a runaway who allegedly threatened the school.

Somerville Police Chief Joe Mann said a 14-year-old Sparkman student threatened some of his classmates and then left home Friday night.

Mann said the teen was not angry about a particular issue but that he "has some anger management issues. Basically, it was teenage bravado making threats toward other students as he left."

Principal Ronnie Moore said the seventh-grader is new to Sparkman this school year. He was home-schooled in Mississippi during the spring semester of the 2005-06 school year after attending Challenger Middle School in Huntsville until December 2005.

Moore said a friend was visiting the teen Friday night and told authorities that the teen asked him if he wanted to run away with him or go home.

"He chose to go home," Moore said.

But Moore said the boy told authorities that he saw the missing teen take his father's .45 caliber handgun and get a ride with another male and two female teens.

History of running away

This is not the first time the teen has run away. When the family lived in Huntsville, Mann said, the boy once stayed away for four weeks. He believes the teen is staying with the same friends who hid him the first time.

"We're pretty sure he's in Huntsville," Mann said. "We've issued a pickup order for him."

Moore said Morgan County Sheriff's Department deputies informed him of the problem Sunday night. The deputies then met Moore on Monday morning before classes began and searched the school to make sure the 14-year-old wasn't hiding in the building.

Moore then put the school in a modified lockdown. He is locking the front doors so workers can control who enters or leaves the building. Teachers keep all classroom doors locked, and classes continue as planned. Students aren't allowed into the halls without adult supervision, and physical education is limited to watching movies.

Superintendent Bob Balch said the school would stay in modified lockdown "until the boy is found and arrested." This is unlike a lockdown, in which classroom and school doors are locked, instruction stops and everyone must stay completely silent.

As more Sparkman parents learn about the modified lockdown, more and more are keeping their children home. Moore said about 50 students missed school Tuesday and he expects that number to rise as the teen remains free.

A parent who works at a juvenile detention center is donating her time for added security. Several parents volunteered to help the additional police patrols watch morning drop-off and afternoon pickups.

"We're taking every precaution to make sure the children are as safe as possible," Moore said.

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