By Rachel Dove
LENORE - When Mingo County Board of Education Superintendent Randy Keathley received an anonymous phone call on Thursday alleging that several students attending Lenore K-8 had joined formed a “suicide pact,” but refused to give names or specific details, he immediately sprang into action, taking no chances that the call could be a hoax.
“When you’re dealing with the lives of children, there’s no time to waste,” Keathley said during an interview Friday morning with the Daily News about the tip he had received. “The safety of the children of this county is our top priority … they are our greatest asset.”
The female caller told Keathley that several students at the Lenore school had allegedly formed a suicide pact with one another and may very well “cause harm to themselves.” This agreement said to have been reached following the recent death of one of their classmates.
Although the caller blocked her number and refused to produce names of those she claimed to be involved, the information was taken very seriously and the superintendent immediately contacted the West Virginia State Police, the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department, Logan-Mingo Area Mental Health and the lead counselor for the school system, Karen Canterbury.
Within a short space of time, grief counselors and law enforcement officials were on site at Lenore K-8, speaking with students and interviewing anyone with information pertaining to the phone call Keathley had received.
“We made contact with over 400 parents and guardians on Thursday,” Keathley said, “and we didn’t stop there.”
“We didn’t send any student home by bus,” he said. “Each child had to be picked up by a family member to assure that everyone knew what was going on.”
Keathley said he could not say enough about the police officers who responded, as well as the director of Logan-Mingo Area Mental Health, Donna Cook, who all performed a great service to these students. A Grief Crisis Intervention Team remained at the school on Thursday and Friday to aid the children in whatever way they could.
“Donna is excellent with children, and has a staff that is second to none when it comes to dealing with situations such as these,” the superintendent said. “I can’t thank everyone enough for their timely response.”
“I hope this will help put the minds of families with students at Lenore K-8 at ease,” he said.
If anyone has information on this alleged “suicide pact,” they are asked to contact the Williamson Detachment of the West Virginia State Police by calling 304-235-6000, the Mingo County Sheriff’s Department at 304-235-0300 or the Mingo County Board of Education at 304-235-3333.