Harrisburg school officials have not taken sufficient action to protect a middle school student in the aftermath of a series of text messages between other students threatening to harm seventh-grade girl basketball players, the mother of one of the students alleged Tuesday night.
One of the messages depicted a handgun pointed at an emoticon following the statement, “I’m loading the gun now.” Later in the series of texts, a message states, “Boom (with the handgun image repeated) it’s been shot.”
Rietta Miller said she told Harrisburg Unit School District board members in closed session that she is outraged at the inaction on the part of administrators after what she said was a series of text messages Dec. 11 between at least three eighth-grade girl basketball players, she said.
“I’m not playing with these people. I’m done playing. I will come to the middle school every day, all day. They better do what’s right. They better expel them kids,” Miller said after the closed session.
She said she was told by school board President Tom DeNeal she would be given an answer in writing within 72 hours.
Miller presented to the board a copy of the messages she had said before the meeting was sent to her. In all, there were nearly two dozen messages sent between 6:08 and 6:11 p.m.
Throughout, the messages, the students allegedly expressed their anger over seventh-graders taking playing time from them and a number of other comments threatening harm against the younger girls.
The texts included names of two of the three students in question, while a third used a nickname or user name.
Miller’s daughter was named in one of the messages but not in a text directing violence against her. It asked only “who told (her) that?” It is unclear just what that message was pertaining to, though the previous message stated, “Never once did I say I was gonna touch her.”
Miller has filed a police report. According to the report, the matter has been turned over to the Williamson County state’s attorney because statements from those involved, including Miller, indicated the texts were sent while the students were in Williamson County.
Miller also alleges the incident was racially motivated, stating that no punishment or criminal charges were administered after a 2010 incident in which her son was beaten at Harrisburg High School. The incident was captured on video and later posted on YouTube.
Another incident occurred in February, Miller alleged, when a noose was found at the high school with her son’s name on it. It is unclear whether action was taken against students in connection with that incident.
“What I’m telling you is this is a black and white issue because this is the third incident involving my children,” she said. “This is a sign of hate. I’m so sick of these people. These people took an oath to protect children.”
Neither DeNeal nor Superintendent Dennis Smith would comment immediately after the closed session, which was before the start of the board’s regularly scheduled meeting.