Rick Patrick: Greene Publishing, Inc.
What do you do with a six-foot long rattlesnake killed on school property? That was the question faced by one parent recently. On the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 19, the parent of a Madison County High School (MCHS) football player killed a large rattlesnake near the football practice field at MCHS. In an attempt to bring awareness to the school district about the problem of overgrown vegetation around the school, this parent left the snake in front of the school district office with red flags posted around the snake to warn people of its presence. The parent (who wished to remain anonymous to protect the privacy of his son) said another reason he left the snake in front of the district office was because he felt the snake “was not [his] property.” This parent told Greene Publishing, Inc. the snake was worth approximately $15 per foot, and this snake was close to six feet long. The parent feared being in trouble for “taking school property” if he had kept the snake.
Since the incident, the parent has informed Greene Publishing, Inc. that he has been served with “no trespass” papers banning him from Madison County District School property. According to the parent, this means if he were to go watch his son play football, he could risk being thrown in jail. “I feel like this is retaliation because I brought out something that has been an on-going problem,” said the parent.
When asked about the “no trespass” warning, Chief Human Capital Officer Sam Stalnaker said the reason School Superintendent Dr. Karen Pickles had the “no trespass” warning issued to the parent was due to liability issues. “We have an employee who comes to work there (at the school district office) at 4:30 or 5 in the morning, and if she had accidentally come up on the snake, it could have been really bad,” said Stalnaker. Stalnaker did confirm that the “no trespass” warning does ban the parent from all school district property.
Stalnaker said that the area around the Cowboys' practice field where the rattlesnake was encountered does get mowed periodically. According to Tim Ginn, Maintenance Supervisor with the Madison County School District, the grounds at the school are mowed periodically, but if an area needs special attention, a request can be made. Even with periodic mowing, encounters with wildlife are not unusual. “We are in a very rural community where visits from wildlife are a constant. When I was the principal at MCCS, we would find moccasins and alligators occasionally on the campus. We even had to catch a small alligator that was found in the courtyard. When you look at our schools in Madison County, each of them except for James Madison is surrounded by forests, swamps, etc. As recent as last year, a medium black bear was seen crossing the Greenville Elementary back field,” said Stalnaker. “I can assure you, all of our schools are working very hard at trying to provide the safest environment for our students to learn, practice and play.”
“Looking more closely at MCHS, it is actually a working farm with a school in the middle. There are hay fields, pastures and a cornfield situated strategically around the campus (actual school property), while the school is surrounded on all sides by forests (timber) and swamp land,” continued Stalnaker.
While Stalnaker feels the District does a good job of keeping the school grounds safe and presentable, there is always room for improvement. “[We] can always do better, nobody's perfect,” said Stalnaker.
One thing is certain, if one ever kills a snake on school property, one should be very careful with how they dispose of the snake.