Three bomb scares Wednesday and Thursday continued their impact on Warren County Schools on Friday as students system-wide stayed away from class.
“Attendance was much lower today,” said Director of Schools Bobby Cox on Friday.
A total of 941 students were absent Friday throughout the Warren County School System. That’s 13.9 percent of the student body, according to Cox. On a normal day, the absentee rate is 5 to 6 percent.
The anxiety comes despite the quick solving of both Thursday bomb threats. At the high school, custodian Marlene Madewell has been charged with filing a false report and could face one to six years on the felony. She had served as school custodian for 13 years and has no criminal record.
Investigators revealed she suffers from manic-depressive disorder and was mad at high school executive principal Jimmy Walker when she scrawled the threat on a bathroom stall Thursday morning.
Her action came one day after students were evacuated from the high school and taken to the Civic Center as a precaution on Wednesday when faded writing was noticed by a student above a urinal in a restroom. The message contained a threat to blow up the school.
Investigators think the message could have been there a long time and had just been reported. However, in the case of Madewell, they think she wrote the threat herself Thursday morning and then reported it as if she had just found it. Video evidence from the hallway and hand writing analysis led officers to bring her in for questioning. She later confessed to the crime. She is free from jail under $30,000 bond.
Cox said she will not be allowed to return to her job at the high school while the case is pending. Saying she is “officially suspended” at this time, Cox said he will speak with legal counsel to deter-mine the next step in the process – that step likely being termination.
Along with the high school, a copycat bomb threat written on a sign inside Nunley Stadium brought evacuation of Warren County Middle School. An eighth-grader has been identified as the perpetrator of the mischief. He came under suspicion after reportedly being the student to see the bomb threat and tell school officials.
He could be suspended for the year under the zero tolerance policy since the written message contained the threat to blow up the school and everyone in it. He may also face criminal charges in juvenile court for the stunt.
Cox said the two days of mayhem resulted in Warren County schools having lost two days of instructional time.
“It’s been a huge drain and we’ve lost two days of instruction that we can’t get back,” Cox said, noting the system was already in a bind due to the 11 days missed due to bad weather this winter. “Not only were these two schools affected, but it also effected Hickory Creek Elementary due to its close proximity to the high school.”