School caught off guard with intruders

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

The security of Chiefland schools is being questioned by some after two unidentified men waltzed onto the campus of Chiefland Middle School Monday and entered the school through an unlocked door to a cafeteria full of children.

Jeremy Brandon Rossi, 20, and Thomas Patrick Kain, 21, both from South Florida, didn't harm anyone but began distributing flyers for a tent revival later that night in Bronson, according to Levy County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Scott Tummond Tuesday.

Tummond said Deputy Steve Ellis, who serves as a resource officer for the three Chiefland schools, responded immediately to a call about the intruders.

Both men were questioned, he said, and Ellis "ran a check on them." The two were escorted from school property without incident and told that they were not to come onto campus without first checking in at the front office.

Tummond said no report was made on the matter because "it was not noteworthy enough," though Ellis did fill out a report Tuesday afternoon that was provided to the Citizen.

"My fear is what it could have been," said Melissa Lott, mother of a 13-year-old student who was in the cafeteria when the men came in that morning. "I'd like to know how we can prevent this. How come I wasn't called? How come the school wasn't put on lockdown?"

Lott said she didn't hear anything about the situation until her daughter described what had happened later on that evening. "She said they (Rossi and Kain) came in and said 'Bow your heads, and let's bless this food.'"

It's being "shrugged off as nothing," Lott said. "Is this really nothing?"

Lott said she likes to believe that nothing bad could happen in a small community such as Chiefland, but, "I'm sure Sandy Hook felt the same way."

Darby Allen, principal of CMS, said, "Obviously, it does heighten our concern for security." She said CMS staff has already met about the matter and plans of having further meetings with county and school board officials to address security issues, such as the possibility of adding more fencing. And, she stressed, the cafeteria doors will be locked from here on out.

"We are not taking this lightly," she said.

School staff, who immediately confronted the two strangers Monday morning, acted  appropriately, she said, adding that the school was not put on lockdown because the two men were not armed and didn't pose any immediate danger.

"We plan for everything we can," she said, "but we can't plan for every possible scenario."

Darby said she has responded to every parent who has called or voiced concern, and she encourages parents to contact her if they have questions or things they need to talk about.

Jeff Edison, the school board's director of administation, said, "It's something we are taking very seriously."

But security is also an issue the school system is "constantly reevaluating," going through security audits and preparing for scenarios just like what happened at CMS, he said. "We practice. We have scripted scenarios. We are more prepared than many other school districts."

Edison, who has two sons enrolled in Chiefland schools, said Monday's security breach was the first time Chiefland schools have ever had to deal with the issue first hand. "This is something that happened," he said, "and we are going to talk about it."