Meridian Star

Local News

February 22, 2013

School on alert after alleged threats

MERIDIAN —     A Lauderdale County school is on high alert due to some alleged threats made against the students and its staff while a former employee is again in jail for child sex offenses.

    Ward Calhoun, chief deputy for the Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department, said Thursday afternoon investigators are currently trying to sift through information concerning violent threats toward students and staff members of Southeast Lauderdale Middle School. Calhoun said investigators are trying to determine how much of the information, if any, is credible, and if so, who is behind the perceived threats.

    Lauderdale County School District Superintendent Randy Hodges said Thursday afternoon the school is on a high alert status until this investigation is completed.

    "We take each and every threat against any of our schools, the students and staff very seriously," said Hodges. "We are looking into this as well as the sheriff's department. Marcus Irby, the principal of Southeast Middle School, has done an excellent job of following our protocols to ensure the students and staff are safe."

    Hodges said when the first threats became known earlier in the week the school was placed on lockdown but that has since been lifted to a high alert status.

    Calhoun and Hodges both said additional security measures including officers have been stationed on campus to bolster the law enforcement presence. Calhoun said the alleged threats constituted a measured response that can be increased or decreased depending on the findings of the investigation.

    Calhoun said some of the alleged threats could have possibly been made by a former cafeteria worker who was recently arrested on child sex charges.

    Calhoun said Dex Hunter Stone, 24, was arrested and charged last week with three counts of sexual battery of a child and one count of lustful touching of a child. Calhoun said Stone was arrested Friday morning following an investigation into allegations from the parents of a 6-year-old and 10-year-old boy. But since the news of Stone's arrest hit the media, more allegations Stone had inappropriate contact with children have surfaced to the point more affidavits for his arrest were made in his name Tuesday.

    "Due to this additional investigation into these allegations, Stone had three more warrants issued in his name," Calhoun said. "

    Those new charges are for two counts of lustful touching of a child and one count of sexual battery. Bonds totaling $65,000 were issued with the charges.

    On Jan. 5, the parents of two boys came to the sheriff's department to report the alleged incidents involving Stone and their two sons. Stone was an acquaintance of the family and at times had babysat the two boys.

    Calhoun said once these new charges were filed, investigators tried to locate Stone. But after searching for Stone Wednesday afternoon and Wednesday night Stone was still at large. Calhoun said Stone was picked up Thursday morning by police in Livingston, Ala. Stone is currently being held in the Sumter County, Alabama, jail awaiting extradition to Lauderdale County to face these new charges.

    Calhoun said part of the ongoing investigation into the threats toward the school surround Stone's whereabouts and behavior in the time he was released on bond from the initial arrest. But Calhoun, and Hodges, said it is not clear at this time if Stone had anything to do with the alleged threats.

    "That is just one part of the investigation we have to sort out," Calhoun said. "If he is behind it, then he will be charged accordingly. As will anyone else we find."

    Hodges said the investigation has to determine how much of the alleged threats are real and how much is rumor.

    "We understand fully just how sensitive this issue is and we will be diligent in getting to the truth," Hodges said. "Our first priority is the safety of the students and the staff. Everything else is secondary."

    Neither Calhoun nor Hodges could predict how long the investigation would take. Both men said until the investigation brings a resolution, the high alert at the school will remain in effect.

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