BARBOURVILLE — A Knox County high school teacher has been charged with telling students he would like to kill hundreds of people before the end of the school year.
Jason Davis, 28, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of second-degree terroristic threatening, Barbourville police Officer Brian Senters said.
Davis was a math teacher at Knox Central High School. On May 13, he allegedly told students in his classroom that he would like to relieve stress by killing 500 people.
Later, Davis allegedly said he would make national news, or cause the school to make national news, Senters said.
But Davis, who was in his first year as a full-time teacher, said he didn't make the threatening statements.
"I'm not going to hurt anybody," Davis, a slight, soft-spoken man with a shaved head and glasses, said in an interview at the Knox County Jail. "I do claim that I'm innocent of the charges."
Knox County Superintendent Walter T. Hulett said the first year as a teacher can be difficult, and students are restive at the end of the school year.
Senters said Davis told him he'd had a hard time getting students to listen.
Before Davis allegedly made the threatening statements, he had stepped out of his classroom, and when he went back in, whiteboard makers weren't where he had left them, Hulett said.
"For whatever reason, that set him off," Hulett said.
Davis acknowledged that his first year was a challenge, with some "classroom-management issues." Some students might have been upset with him over discipline, he said.
When he found that students had stolen markers and wouldn't tell him where they were, "I was exasperated, but it wasn't like ... throwing chairs across the room or whatever," Davis said.
Davis said he thinks the allegations against him are the result of a misunderstanding, or "something's gotten twisted."
Students told administrators about Davis' alleged remarks, and Hulett came to the school to talk with him.
Hulett said it didn't appear that Davis had any real plan to harm anyone. It was a concern, however, that Davis displayed "steep" mood swings when they talked, quickly going from calm to emotionally upset, Hulett said.
Hulett said he suspended Davis for the rest of the school year, directed him not to come back on school property or to any school events, and told a police officer stationed at the school to watch for Davis.
Senters said Barbourville police were notified the next day and went to Davis' trailer. He allowed them to search; police didn't find any weapons, Senters said.
Davis is being held in the Knox County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bond and is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday.
Davis had been notified by letter before the incident that his teaching contract wouldn't be renewed for budget reasons, Hulett said.
Davis said the letter didn't upset him. There was still a chance he would be rehired when the budget was worked out, he said.
He said he loves teaching and thought he'd done a good job, but he said he isn't sure it would be good for him to try to return to the classroom quickly.
"Do you want to try to teach and have people saying, 'There's the guy who supposedly said those things'?" he said.