Parents address BOE on Dec. 7 shooting threat


TIPP CITY — A lot of information came to light at the Tipp City Board of Education’s emergency meeting Wednesday evening regarding a Dec. 7, 2022, incident involving a Tippecanoe Middle School student who allegedly made a threat to shoot up the Tipp City school.

The emergency meeting was called by board members Theresa Dunaway and Anne Zakkour Tuesday afternoon following their Monday evening discovery of the Dec. 7 incident and the following outrage of parents. The majority of Tipp City parents apparently only learned about the incident, along with the board of education, Monday evening, just before the district returned from winter break. During the emergency meeting, multiple parents attended to express their concerns for their children and their outrage at how the situation was handled.

Based on information from parents and the Tipp City Police report, it was made apparent that while the student’s threats were made during school on Dec. 7, the police were not notified of the threat until the morning of Dec. 8, 2022. According to the police report, the student admitted they would shoot up the school if they could and named targeted individuals and weapons they had in mind to use during the assault. The student said they were giving an “honest response to the questions, but wouldn’t actually do it,” the report said.

Concerned parent Kimberly Swartz attended and said her daughter was the first student named in this student’s individual threats. Swartz claims she was notified of the threat against her child at the end of the school day on Dec. 7 and on Dec. 9 she secured a one-year protection order against this student on behalf of her daughter.

According to Swartz, Superintendent Mark Stefanik was made aware of the situation, if not when it happened, the day after, when she personally called Stefanik to speak with him about the situation.

“He knew about this … He put a bull crap thing out to us parents (Wednesday) saying it was a student threat made towards another student. That is a lie … Here’s my question, why were the police not notified until 11:45 a.m. on Dec. 8 when the situation happened on Dec. 7 and I was contacted at 3:50 p.m. on Dec. 7? So again, why the lapse in time from Dec. 7 to Dec. 8 in reporting a school shooting threat to officials? Why were the parents not contacted in regards to a school shooting threat?” said Swartz. “I’m not trying to be mean because you all (board of education members) apparently didn’t know, but Stefanik knew. (Jason) Watercutter (assistant principal) knew… None of this was handled appropriately. It was swept under the rug and everybody thought I’d shut my mouth.”

“The judge took it seriously. Enough to give me a one year protection order for my daughter. Why are you (Stefanik) not taking it seriously for all of these other parents, all of these students,” said Swartz.

Standing with Swartz were numerous other parents who are terrified to send their children back to Tippecanoe Middle School due to the lack of communication and transparency from the administration, and specifically Stefanik. Parent Melanie Birdsong specifically mentioned her child’s complete switch from absolutely loving attending school to completely fearing going each morning.

“I’m at the point right now where I may be pulling her from the school because of the actions of the last few days. Because I think what people need to realize is, that we, as parents, didn’t know and we have found out today that almost none of the teachers in the middle school knew … My daughter is scared to go to a school that she loves because no one told us. If you had told me back in December what you were going to do and how you were going to take care of my children, I could have sat her down and said look, Mr. Stefanik says this is what we’re doing, you’re going to be safe, it’s okay you can go back where you love to go to school,” said Birdsong.

Along with Birdsong, many of the parents spoke about their kids being terrified due to information circulating on social media from other students and about their own fears regarding sending their kids to school.

Multiple individuals who spoke out during the emergency meeting called for Stefanik to be fired and wanted to know how they can follow through with prosecuting Stefanik for failing as a mandated reporter for the school district.

After each parent who wished to speak had their say, the board members individually addressed the parents, thanking them for being brave and stepping up to speak out for what they think is right. When it came time for Dunaway to speak, she brought up the question, is the district better with or without Stefanik as superintendent? Zakkour not only thanked the parents, she directly addressed Stefanik. Zakkour’s question clarified that Stefanik had in fact not notified any member of the Tipp City Board of Education about the situation.

Following the first part of the emergency meeting, the board entered into executive session to discuss the discipline of a public employee or official and to consider complaints against a public employee or official. During the executive session, Stefanik provided comments on the situation.

“I appreciate the parents coming out and sharing their concerns. A lot of times it’s tough for parents to state their true feelings especially when they’re being critical of somebody in the school district, but I appreciate them coming out and sharing that they felt that the school district didn’t respond to the situation appropriately,” said Stefanik. “There are two ways to respond to this situation and with some consultation with board counsel there are two ways to respond. We responded one way as far as our notifications go and the general community, as represented tonight, expected more information to the whole community rather than to individual students.”

“Not to get to detailed about processes, but the initial reports come to building administration, and then building administration off of the information they have, make decisions about reporting to the law enforcement authorities. And so the actual communication with the police officers goes off the direct information at the building level. And so as soon as we have accurate information and feel that law enforcement needs to be involved, I believe that call needs to be made.” said Stefanik, when asked why the call to police was delayed.

Regarding the student who made threats, the only comment Stefanik could make was “the student is serving consequences” for his actions. While the student is still a registered Tipp City student, Stefanik could not provide a clear answer on whether the student is suspended or expelled as has been circulating on social media.

When asked if he still feels he is competent and able to continue in his capacity as superintendent, Stefanik said, “I’m more than fit to do the superintendent’s job and I am willing to do what I need to do to rebuild the trust of the community.”

The board then resumed their regular session of the emergency meeting and Dunaway moved for a non-renewal Mr. Stefanik’s contract, effective immediately. The motion passed unanimously, leaving Stefanik to finish out this school year as superintendent with no possibility of renewing his contract when it expires on July 31, 2023.

“I just think that this should have happened a long time ago; it’s sad that it took all of this to bring it to, so to speak, to bring it to a head. There have been way to many signs along the way and I hope the board does what’s right for the community, staff and students,” said Dunaway.

“I think that this lack of communication to board and actually to the community has been a pattern and I’m very saddened by this, I honestly am. This is one of those things that I look at, principle over personalities. And this does truly sadden me that I feel it has reached this point, but I see a continuous failure in what I believe is judgement and leadership, and that’s what we have to put first and foremost, in my opinion, if we expect the educational welfare of students to be at the forefront of our process,” said Zakkour.

No posts to display