Almost 40 percent of Longview High School students left the campus Oct. 25 after news of a social media threat targeting the school began to circulate, according to data from Longview ISD.
That number was even higher a day earlier at Kilgore High School, where Kilgore ISD reported almost 45 percent of students at that campus left early after a similar threat was made.
Officials with both districts say students’ absences those days in October will be excused, and they are taking steps to assure state funding will not be affected.
David Alexander Nelson, 19, of Longview was arrested Oct. 27 after confessing to Kilgore police that he created several Snapchat posts with threats toward Longview and Kilgore high schools as a prank.
Nelson has connections to Kilgore and Longview ISDs, according to his brother, Jason. He is being held in the Gregg County Jail on $500,000 bond.
The threats spurred a flood of parents to pick up students from both schools.
According to attendance data from Kilgore ISD, 495 students were checked out of the high school Oct. 24. The campus has an enrollment of 1,109 students. Though the school beefed up security, 680 students — more than 60 percent of the campus — were absent Oct. 25.
At Longview High School, almost 850 of the campuses’ 2,147 students were checked out Oct. 25, and more than 500 were absent Oct. 26.
The threats also affected attendance at the districts’ other campuses, but the number of students who were checked out and absent was far lower than at the high schools.
The Kilgore ISD board of trustees gave administrators permission Tuesday to apply for a Texas Education Agency low-attendance waiver for Oct. 25 and 26, interim Superintendent Mike Morrison said Wednesday.
“For safety reasons, parents decided not to send their students to school,” he said. “Because we were far below our average, we can seek a waiver for those days.”
Districts can apply for a waiver if attendance rate falls “at least 10 percentage points below the overall average ... for the prior year.” Schools can cite inclement weather, health or safety issues on the application.
If the waiver is awarded, the days will be excluded from average daily attendance, which helps determine the amount of state funding that districts receive.
Kilgore High School students will not have to provide excuses for absences Oct. 25 and 26, Morrison said, and teachers are working to make up lost instructional time.
“You pick up where you left off and go forward. ... With (the) necessary instruction, you can’t skip it. You’ve got to go back and reteach or teach what you were going to teach those days,” he said.
Longview ISD student absences will be excused for Oct. 25 and 26, said spokeswoman Elizabeth Ross. She said the district also will have to apply for a low-attendance waiver from the Texas Education Agency.