A school employee upset about budget cuts and layoffs in his southern Kentucky school district was arrested after allegedly telling co-workers that he knew how to make a bomb and threatening the superintendent and elementary school where he has worked, authorities said Wednesday.
The suspect's job had been spared from the cutbacks. James M. Paulson of Stearns was not among the nearly two dozen McCreary County teachers or support staff who received layoff notices in recent days as the district along the Tennessee border deals with declining revenues.
Paulson, 50, was being held in the Laurel County Detention Center on a second-degree terroristic threatening charge, according to Kentucky State Police.
Paulson has been a computer technician for about 10 years in the district.
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He allegedly made the threats to two teachers in "office space" at Pine Knot Primary School while classes were in session Tuesday, Superintendent Arthur D. Wright said Wednesday. Wright said he was not aware of any youngsters overhearing the comments. Paulson was mainly assigned to the primary school.
Paulson left the school after making the alleged threats and was arrested later that same day when a deputy sheriff spotted him driving, authorities said.
His arraignment is scheduled for May 16. Court records did not list an attorney for Paulson.
Investigators found that Paulson's alleged threats were in reference to budget cuts and layoffs in the school system, said state police Trooper Don Trosper.
Paulson told the teachers he knew how to make a bomb, having researched it, and he could blow up the school, said Trosper, spokesman for the state police post at London.
Authorities searching for Paulson went to his home but did not search it, he said.
Wright said he was notified of the threat by the school's principal. Wright said he called Paulson and the two met briefly in the superintendent's office. Afterward, the superintendent contacted police.
The district was hit with budget cuts in the past year, and ongoing revenue problems forced school district leaders to trim the work force. Twenty-three teaching and support staff positions are being eliminated in the coming school year, and the district also cut 29 assistant coaching positions.
"We are aligning our expenditures with our revenues," Wright said.
The superintendent said he didn't know if any of Paulson's friends were among those losing their jobs.
Asked about the community's response to the budget cuts and layoffs, he said, "With any reduction in revenues, you're going to have reduction of staff members. ... No one wants to have a reduction in pay or a loss of job."
Wright declined to say whether the district will take its own disciplinary action against Paulson.