Parents voice outrage at emergency school board meeting in Craigmont

CRAIGMONT, ID - The family of a boy who was put into a choke-hold by a grown man in a school classroom took center stage at a local school board meeting.

Some parents are calling for the resignation of Highland Joint School District Superintendent Cindy Orr.

Outraged parents voiced their anger with the Highland Joint School District Board of Trustees at an emergency meeting held Wednesday night. The clash of opinions following an incident in which a man was witnessed attacking children in a classroom set the scene for what could be considered a perfect storm of emotion.

"It was my grandson that was put in a headlock," said grandparent Ron Peery. "And I feel that I should have been notified before that. I had to come to school to be notified."

"I apologize that I didn't call you quickly as you liked," said superintendent Cindy Orr. "I made the best decision I thought I could make at the time."

Members of the school board and Orr have come under fire following an attack in a fifth grade classroom at Highland Elementary school in Craigmont, in which 35-year-old Byron Edwards was seen slapping, tripping and choking children. Orr tells KLEW News that she got in touch with parents as soon as she could, but she needed to fully understand what had happened before she got in touch with them. It's a situation that Orr and the School Board were not prepared for.

"It should not have happened and it did.......and that's pretty much my stand on it," said Board Chairman Don Johnston.

The family of the boy who was put into a choke-hold was up in arms throughout the entire meeting.

"The next time anything like that happens, by golly the parents are called immediately," said parent Lucas Peery.

Parents were also confused as to why the substitute teacher in the room told Orr initially that no incident took place. Orr tells KLEW News she doesn't know why the teacher told her that, when she later changed her story.

"I was told by the adult in the room that she didn't see anything, she didn't hear anything and she put it in writing," said Orr.

Little resolution was found at the meeting as it served as more of a forum for parents to express how they want any future events handled.

"I have a very deep concern for what happened," said Board Vice-Chairman Debra Widmier. "And I, right now, give you my apology for everything that went wrong."

While some parents walked away from the volatile meeting feeling little was accomplished, the school board announced their intention to review the district's safety policies and invited any parents who wish to participate.

Superintendent Cindy Orr says that she hopes parents feel like their concerns are being heard. She said it's important parents be included in the process because the district plans to use parental input in regard to the review of school safety policies.

"Just kind of pulling everything that we've learned from the sheriff's department and from this incident so that we're better prepared for a situation like this," said Orr.

"You're going to see a lot more of us and daily," said Lewis County Chief Deputy Jason Davis. "Multiple times daily."

Davis says the police department has plans to have plain clothes policeman and officers in uniform on campus at the local schools.

The school board has another meeting scheduled for January 14th, where they plan to discuss policy changes regarding safety.