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Local school facing backlash after man with knife tries to enter

Allyson Dix

Parents are livid and asking why one local school district failed to notify them after a man attempted to enter the backdoor of an elementary school who was carrying a knife.

On Monday morning, according to Cave City Police Department (CCPD), Caverna Elementary School Resource Officer, Josh Neal, received notice from school personnel of a male subject attempting to open the rear doors and get inside the building.

Caverna Elementary School
Photo by Mary Beth Sallee

Parents are learning about the matter on Facebook instead of a notification from the school district and sharing their distaste for not being notified.

Police say the man, later identified as Devan Howard, was carrying an open switchblade-style knife in his waistline. Neal removed the knife before Howard fled on foot. He was located and apprehended less than a mile in a field behind the school.

“Due to the nature of the incident, Officers with the Cave City Police Department instructed Caverna Elementary to enter into a lockdown for the safety of students and faculty,” a news release states.

Once police deemed the area safe and Howard was arrested, the school was instructed to return to its normal day.

It would be approximately 28 hours later the majority of parents would receive notification the incident even occurred. Most learning about it from a Facebook post from CCPD, which is a typical procedure from law enforcement to share news releases.

Chasity Martin-Albertson told the Barren County Progress parents should have been notified with the one-call system.

“It’s in place for notifications,” she said, “I understand they don’t want parents running up to the school in the middle of something, but once everything was all clear, they could have given us a heads up on what happened.”

Martin-Albertson has two children at Caverna Elementary and while she says she isn’t trying to create more tension over the matter, she believes the one-call system could have been utilized and is there for a reason.

“I’m highly upset,” said Alyssa Cox, mom of two children in Caverna Elementary, “I had to find out through Facebook.”

Cox also said the one-call system should be used for such situations.

“They could have sent out a one-time message like they do for everything else but they didn’t,” Cox shared with BCP, “I’m upset because they’re acting like it isn’t a very big deal. It’s sad honestly.”

According to officials, the incident occurred during the morning drop-off times.

Superintendent Amanda Abell told BCP in a phone call on Tuesday that the precautionary “soft” lockdown was in place from 7:10 to 7:20 a.m., according to the principle of Caverna Elementary. She further said it was school personnel who noticed the man first.

“We didn’t send out a notification because the incident was resolved very quickly and the individual did not actually threaten to hurt anyone,” Abell said.

Abell, reading from a statement, said the man never entered the school building nor did he make any kind of contact with staff or students inside or outside the school building.

“The entire incident was resolved in under 20 minutes,” Abell said.

It is unclear at this time what the intent or connection of the man to Caverna Elementary had prior to attempting to enter.

However, police say drugs were found in Howard’s vehicle, which was parked at the school. K-9 Officer G Avery deployed K-9 Capone, which resulted in locating suspected marijuana.

On Howard’s person, police say suspected crystal methamphetamine was also found.

Officials say the man was having trouble communicating. He was arrested on a slew of charges and lodged in the Barren County Detention Center.

After Howard was apprehended, an eyewitness and caregiver to children in Caverna Elementary said, “The guy seemed fine. He looked straight at me with no expression change or anything.”

The eyewitness wishes to remain anonymous for her own protection, but also shared her concern for the lack of transparency from the school.

“I understand the school not sending a one-call during, but after, they should have sent this explaining what happened with no incidents and all children are safe at the very least,” she told BCP.

Other parents are voicing scrutiny and alleging the school district is more concerned about money than the children.

Abell posted a comment on the CCPD’s Facebook page on Monday after speaking with BCP, the place where parents are first learning about yesterday’s incident.

Abell, in her comment and to BCP, explained the situation and commended the response from the school staff and SRO who responded.

Shelby Smith, who revealed in the comment she graduated from Caverna, pointed out to Abell in a reply, “He had an open switchblade for crying out loud!!…You mean to tell me that’s not worth contacting the parents over????”

Smith said parents have every right to know what goes on at their child’s school.

Abell said individuals cutting across school property behind Caverna Elementary is nothing new. However, she said law enforcement is called to deal with those. She also said the doors were locked when Howard attempted to enter and all doors into the school remain locked at all times.

But this one was different.

BCP asked Abell several times for a statement regarding the lack of notification which feels like a lack of transparency for parents.

Abell didn’t directly respond to the transparency question specifically, but did explain if the subject had had contact with anyone or posed a threat, “We definitely would have communicated that.”

BCP asked Abell what the policy is in notifying parents regarding lockdowns, whether they are “soft” or more serious in nature. Her response: “I’ll check the policy on that.”

As of 2:45 p.m. on Tuesday, the BCP has not received any information regarding the school’s policy on lockdowns and parental notification.

In an attempt to find the policy handbook online, BCP visited the Caverna Independent School District’s website. The link to access the plans, policies, and procedures for the district does not work.

“The safety of our students is a number one priority,” Abell said, “That’s why we have trained our staff that if you see anything suspicious you need to let the office know.” She said she is proud of the response from staff and the SRO.

Howard faces the following charges: public intoxication of a controlled suspect; second-degree fleeing or evading police on foot; first-degree possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine); drug paraphernalia – buy/possess; unlawful possession of a weapon on school property; tampering with physical evidence; and no driver’s license or insurance card.



Screen capture of Caverna School District website to link to a policy handbook.


Screen capture of Caverna School District website to link to a policy handbook on March 14.

Screen capture of the response after clicking to link with no actual policy handbook available for viewing on March 14.

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