Alabama school leader resigns over mishandling death threat notebook

Published 9:44 am Thursday, November 3, 2022

An Alabama school district’s superintendent has resigned after it was revealed that school officials had been aware of a student’s notebook filled with threats for a year before taking action to ensure student safety.

Trussville City Schools Superintendent Pattie Neill’s contract was scheduled to expire June 30, 2026, but her attorney renegotiated the pact that will now end Oct. 31, 2023. Neill will be paid through that date, but will no longer be in charge of the district, which is in a suburb of Birmingham, reported.

“It provides us an opportunity to move forward, it provides us an opportunity to have a fresh start,” Trussville City Board of Education Vice President Kim DeShazo said of the negotiation involving Neill. “I am looking forward to our city being in the news for the things that we have to celebrate, because Trussville City Schools does have a lot to celebrate and a lot to be thankful for .. I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

The board named Interim Superintendent Frank Costanzo as the district’s acting superintendent as the system begins the search for Neill’s permanent replacement.

Since Sept. 30, Neill had been on a 60-day leave of absence.

Many parents of students in the district had called for Neill’s removal after it was revealed that school officials had been aware of a “death notebook” for a year before taking action. The notebook allegedly contained names of more than three dozen students the author wanted to kill.

The latest threats were first reported to city officials on Sept. 16. Parents were not informed until Sept. 26, according to one speaker at a September school board meeting. Another student first reported a notebook with death threats in October 2021.

In late September, a city investigation revealed school staff were aware of the student’s notebook — which contained the names of 37 students he allegedly wanted to kill — but did not notify parents or other staff until the student apparently again threatened to harm others, the news site reported.

The student who allegedly owned the notebook has been sent to an alternative school, but some parents said 20 days in that environment would not be enough to make students feel safe or to help the one who made the threats.

“We deeply and humbly apologize for all the emotional and mental distress experienced by our students, parents and staff,” board president Kathy Brown wrote in a newsletter to parents following the probe. “It is painful and we want to work towards healing, and that includes every single student.”

Principal Tim Salem was placed on administrative leave shortly after the case became public.