Several parents of students at Chilhowee Middle School are calling for the principal's resignation after a sensitive subject was mishandled, they said.
Administrators at the school got ahold of a suicide letter that one of their students passed along to a friend at school.
The boy's mother told WRCB, their local news station, that not only did administrators embarrass him in front of the school but they also made him feel like a criminal.
Lisa Farris, the mother of the 6th grader who wrote the suicide letter, said she feels 'disgusted and hurt' at the way Chilhowee Middle School administrators responded.
"I think things should have been handled a whole lot different ... I really do," Farris said.
She said a staff member and school resource officer pulled her 12-year-old from the lunchroom last Friday after a note he wrote was passed around school. He was then taken to the front office.
"That's when they said okay Dallas, you're going to have to go with us. We are taking you to jail," said Farris.
The child was put in a patrol car where the school resource officer drove him two miles to the Polk County Justice Center.
His parents say he spent the next six hours being evaluated.
"Why would my child be taken to jail? Why wasn't my son getting medical help instead of getting taken like he was a criminal," Farris said.
The principal at Chilhowee Middle School, Connie Dunn, had no comment and suggested reaching out to the Director of Schools, Dr. James Jones.
"There was an incident at Chilhowee Middle School," Jones said in a written statement. "That student and other students are our primary concerns regarding safety concerns. The incident involved a potential suicide that was being closely monitored. Protocol was followed before, during, and after the incident to ensure the safety of this student and other students. That child was able to get the help needed for the situation. After the incident, other students were met with to handle emotional concerns the students' had. That child was never singled out by name. In cooperation with the school SRO, certain procedures took place in regards to policies. Again, safety for this student and emotional concern for all other students were considered and actions by the school took place to ensure the integrity of our concerns."
"They're denying everything, but there are children and parents coming out saying 'no, this is what happened,'" said Farris.
A handful of parents called WRCB about concerns with the way the situation was handled.
"There are no words to describe it, it's heartbreaking," said Amy Mcintosh, a parent at Chilhowee Middle School.
Mcintosh said her son saw the suicide note. She also said her son and all the 6th graders were called together for an assembly about the note. She, along with other parents, said school leaders named the boy who wrote the letter in front of his peers.
The school district denies that claim.
"Why? What did that do except shine more light on the child who is already having a difficult situation?" Mcintosh said.
Mcintosh said she is worried other children will be afraid of talking about their feeling because they may fear being embarrassed in front of classmates.
"If this is their protocol, then it is completely wrong," said Mcintosh.
Farris added, "Instead of getting help, I'm going to a jail. It's horrible."
Lisa Farris said her son had a hard year after losing his grandparents and uncle.
She said he was never a danger to anyone else.