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Caverna to make changes to response plan

After man with knife tries to enter elementary school

A “soft” lockdown was placed on Caverna Elementary School after a man with a knife attempted to enter the back doors on March 13. Photo/Mary Beth Sallee

By Allyson Dix

Jobe Publishing, Inc.


Updates to this story are provided at the end of the original story.

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 the morning of Monday, March 13, 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.

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

Devan Mikhail Howard Photo/BCDC

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 nearly 30 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 (BCP) 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 early morning drop-off times.

Superintendent Amanda Abell told BCP in a phone call on Tuesday, March 14, that the precautionary “soft” lockdown was in place from 7:10 to 7:20 a.m., according to the principal 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 last Tuesday after speaking with BCP, the place where parents were first learning about the 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 press time, the BCP has not received any information regarding the school’s policy on lockdowns and parental notification.

A screen capture of when the Barren County Progress attempted to access the online policy handbook from Caverna’s district website on March 14. Photo/Screen capture/Caverna Schools’ website

Screen capture of the error when clicking on the policy handbook link. Photo/screen capture

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.


In an e-mail, Abell told BCP on March 16 that an outpouring of support from the community has been shared with the district in regard to their response.

“Our regional safety coordinator contacted us and indicated our response was a great example of resolving situations quickly and calmly,” Abell said.

The superintendent also acknowledged concerns stemming from parents due to not being notified of the incident. “I can see in hindsight that parents would want to know that an individual was arrested outside on school grounds with a knife and methamphetamine on his person,” Abell said, “We will certainly add in our Emergency Response Plan (ERP) to contact parents during a soft lockdown of this nature.”

She plans to address the lack of access to the website’s policy link and did provide a copy of the district’s procedure for Building Lockdowns, however, the actual ERP is confidential by law.

Howard made no threats against students or staff nor was he forcibly attempting to enter, Abell explained. “We responded in a way that did not create panic or fear with our students, staff, and families. Our number one priority is school safety and making sure our students feel safe at school.”

1 Comment

  1. Sandy Johnson on March 22, 2023 at 5:56 pm

    I really don’t understand how they see this not being a threat to the students. He was at the back door, trying to gain entry while armed and in possession of meth, which he was under the influence of. He was not delivering pizza. If he had opened that door what could have happened? That people is posing a threat. I have grandchildren in that school and I find the fact that it’s taken so lightly by the school completely insane.

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