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Threat at high school unnerves parents

April 6, 2017 – Students and parents were left on edge earlier this week when a threat of violence was found at Excelsior Springs High School. On Monday, a message was found scrawled on the wall of a girls bathroom stall that allegedly stated, “I’m going to shoot up the school on 4/4.” It was unclear when the message had been written, or by whom, but the level of uncertainty felt through the halls – and the town – was evident.

By the afternoon hours, the Excelsior Springs School District had alerted parents to the message by sending out e-mails and voicemails. The information stated, “A general threat was discovered written on a bathroom stall at the high school today.  The statement indicated that there would be an incident of violence on 4/4/2017.  The written statement was evaluated by the police department along with school officials.  After having local authorities review the graffiti, it was determined not to be a credible threat.”

The exact process instituted to reach that conclusion was not specified at the time, and left some parents with a sour taste in their mouths.

“I wish ESSD and ESPD would let everyone know why they feel the threat was ‘not credible,’ that would ease the minds of parents, including myself,” said one concerned mom.

Her thoughts were echoed across social media, as many parents questioned their students’ safety, and whether it was wise to send them to school the following day. The school district, with the Excelsior Springs Police Department, felt confident in their analysis and chose to continue business as usual, stating “School will continue tomorrow as normally scheduled.  There will be an increased presence in supervision and support by both the school and local police. The district has a very close relationship with the Excelsior Springs Police Department and we jointly plan and participate in routine emergency response drills and are cooperating fully with their investigation.”

Although the Excelsior Springs Police Department did increase their presence on Tuesday, April 4, with multiple extra officers in addition to the normal school resource officers, many parents did opt to keep their children home – so many, in fact, that the attendance rate was down to 63%.

ESPD Lt. Paul White and Staff Sgt. Larry Tarrant told the Standard that credible may not have been the best choice of word. “We are not downplaying this threat in the slightest,” Tarrant said. “We are taking this very seriously and the investigation is ongoing.”

White went on to discuss that there are certain factors that are taken into account when determining the risk of any threat, and that the dynamics behind this particular situation led to a low assessment. The exact criteria of that analysis has been intentionally left behind closed doors, as public knowledge of that process could lead to more, harder to distinguish threats in the future.

“There are specific elements that we look for when evaluating a threat,” White said. “This one did not meet all of those. But that does not mean that we aren’t taking it seriously. I am looking forward to finding the party responsible so they are held accountable.”

While the situation was been nerve-wracking for many, one positive has come from it. “We instill in these kids, ‘if you see something, say something,” White said. “Someone saw something, so they said something. That is exactly what should happen.”

Building on that, ESSD and ESPD both recommend that parents speak frequently with their students about the atmosphere at school and ask questions when needed. ESSD’s statement ended with, “We ask that everyone work together, as a community, to create a safe and supportive learning environment. We ask that you please discuss the incident with your student, emphasizing the seriousness of making threats about school. Encourage them to come forward if they have any information, and if in your conversations, you discover any information that can assist us in our investigation, please contact the Excelsior Springs Police Department immediately.” White stated that he would be more than happy to take calls with any tips or concerns regarding this incident. He can be reached by calling 816-630-2000. Calls may be anonymous.

Read more of this story in the Friday, April 7 issue of the Standard, including a rundown of the training the district employees go through to prepare for violent situations

 

By Skyla Sullivan • skyla@leaderpress.com

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