FORT WORTH — Of the more than 1,000 students that attend John Tidwell Middle School, about 170 were absent Monday following the return of a student accused of writing a violent and sexual story that targeted classmates.
Officials with the Northwest Independent School District confirmed the number, which they said is five times the daily average. They also said the accused student was among those absent.
"We take every student's comments seriously," said Karen G. Rue, the district's superintendent. "We investigate passing comments in hallways when students are rude to another; everything is taking seriously."
The district says its hands are tied because the book wasn't written on or using school property.
Holding signs and chanting, dozens of parents and students protested outside the school Monday morning.
The eighth grade student is accused of writing "Killing Children," an 11-part story that details attacks on specific students with knives and sexual assaults. Parents said the student, who WFAA isn't naming due to his age, was removed from class weeks ago after his parents withdrew him from school, but said he returned after spring break.
In response to the protests, the district released a statement in which the father of the accused child said he was "evaluated for two weeks and then released."
"He additionally indicates his son was encouraged to write, writes frequently and has no intentions of harming anyone," the statement read.
District officials said they cannot legally remove the child from school and called the situation a police matter.
Jaden Gary, a seventh grade student, said the student acted out against her and a friend last year. Her mother has decided to keep Gary from the school while the student in question is still there.
"I've been pretty scared because I don't know what he's going to do and what's going to set him off," Gary said.
An eighth grader, who asked not to be identified, said she was best friends with the student in sixth grade, but the two had a falling out. She said she believes he's capable of doing everything outlined in the book.
Stephanie Lee says she was sick to her stomach when she found out her eighth grade daughter was named in the book. Lee changed her daughter's school schedule so she wouldn't have class with the student in question, but says her daughter has begged to be schooled at home.
"She's scared," Lee said. "She doesn't want to be there. It's hard to focus."
While the district says it notified every parent whose child was named in the book, Lee says that wasn't the case.
"Their children are safe in our school," Rue said. "This is probably one of the safest places they can be. Our teachers are sensitive to the situation."
One additional school resource officer was on hand during the parent protest as a precaution, for a total of two, Rue said.
The district says it learned of the book February 26, which was a snow day for the school. Rue says parents whose children were named were notified the next day. The rest of the school was notified on March 20.
The Denton County Sheriff's Office has turned over its investigation to the Tarrant County District Attorney, since that's where the book was written.
No word on when the investigation will be complete.