BENTON CITY -- The principal at Kiona-Benton City High School is under investigation for allegations he threatened to cut a rosary from the neck of student who ignored warnings to remove it.
Principal Wayne Barrett allegedly had a pocketknife in his hand at the time.
Wearing the string of beads -- a religious symbol for Catholics -- is banned in many schools including at Ki-Be because street gangs use them to identify their members.
Neither the Benton County Sheriff's Office report nor school officials identified the student by name, but a classmate told the Herald that Barrett allegedly threatened Roel Corral, 18.
Barrett has denied any wrongdoing to police. He told the Herald he shouldn't comment on the issue and directed questions to district Superintendent Rom Castilleja.
Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said his office received the sheriff's report on Wednesday and has not made a decision on whether Barrett should be charged with a crime.
Witnesses quoted in the report filed by detectives give conflicting versions of what happened in front of the high school Aug. 31.
But everyone, including Barrett, agrees it started when Corral wore a rosary on the first day of school. Barrett told him at least twice to take it off, according to the report.
Both warnings happened on the sidewalk in front of the high school, the report said.
The second time Corral was standing with some other students when Barrett allegedly "unfolded a knife and threatened to cut it off," according to the report.
"He said, 'Take care of that or I'll take care of it for you,' " Corral's friend Javier Ayala told the Herald.
Corral did not return a message left on his phone, but Ayala told the Herald that Corral wore the rosary because he is Catholic.
Other students quoted in the police report told similar versions.
Barrett told the deputies he made no such threat to Corral or any of the students. However, he admitted having a pocketknife and gave it to deputies.
Barrett told officers that "at one point he may have had his pocketknife in his hand when he told the student to remove the item," according to the report.
Barrett said he had used the knife earlier in the day to cut some plastic ties on campus, the report said.
Ayala told the Herald that Barrett was not working with the knife when he first confronted the students, but pulled it out of his right front pocket and unfolded it in front of Corral.
Barrett told deputies that's not what happened.
Corral told investigators he tucked away his rosary and walked off.
But on Sept. 1, Corral's cousin reported the incident to Jennifer Oliver, a teacher at the high school, according to the report.
She called Child Protective Services, the superintendent and the sheriff's office after consulting with an official from the state teachers' union.
Deputy Brad Klippert, the school resource officer, and another deputy interviewed Barrett and some of the students.
The next day, the sheriff's office assigned two detectives to conduct the investigation because Klippert works with Barrett on a daily basis and the office wanted to avoid any appearance of bias, the report said.
Castilleja declined Friday to say if Barrett had been disciplined in connection with the incident, citing personnel privacy rules. "I believe we have taken appropriate action," he said.
Castilleja said there is no district rule regarding adults having knives on school grounds but students are prohibited from bringing knives to school and may be suspended for breaking that rule.
For adults, there is only state law, which prohibits bringing firearms, switch blades, air rifles and several other types of weapons on campus, but it says nothing about pocketknives.
Castilleja said his only issue is to make sure kids were safe.
"It's my understanding that they weren't threatened," he said.