A student at our District 65 elementary school threatened to bring a rifle to school and shoot my third grader. He then intimidated her with further threats, keeping her silent for two weeks before she finally told her father and me. This actually happened.
The principal’s knee-jerk response was to immediately dismiss the idea of any 'imminent threat' prior to doing an investigation. Within only 60 seconds of learning the above information, the principal said “there is no imminent threat.” He brushed it off as no big deal without ever talking to another person. In fact, during our meeting, he excused himself to check on the morning announcements.
The school social worker and principal interviewed my daughter with us present. She repeated the same story as above. We left school that day with our daughter while the school did their investigation.
We went home and waited. We waited all day. The principal called and informed us that the student admitted to the threats and that they were not credible. He would not reveal to us why the threats were not credible but told us that she was safe and would be welcomed back to the school by him personally. During the day, an interview was conducted with the student who made the threats as well as other students who may have heard the threats. Despite the student’s admission, the principal concluded that the threats were not credible.
We did learn that the student doesn’t have a firearm in his home. However, according to the Safety Officer, the principal discovered that there are firearms in the home of one of the student’s friends: one of which being a hunting rifle belonging to a parent. The principal neglected to disclose this information to us. To recap: the student admitted to threatening to bring a rifle to school to shoot my child and intimidated her into silence for 2 weeks, all the while potentially having access to a firearm.
Here's what our principal didn't do: He didn't call police. That's right. Nobody from our school informed police in order for a proper investigation to take place. We informed police ourselves who came to our home, interviewed our daughter, filed a report. Police also went to the student's home to interview the family. In fact, police were surprised that they hadn't heard from the school as they have a close working relationship with the school. Police were responsive, thorough, fair and capable in their investigation.
Here's what the school and district refuse to do: Search the child's possessions to ensure the safety of students. Despite the suggestion of the police department's Safety Officer that it is a reasonable action and request, the school and the district refused to search the child's backpack for firearms. In fact, officials at the district admitted that they could not really know if the student had access to a gun but did verify that it was within their legal rights to ignore the suggestion of the safety officer to check the student back pack.
In the words of District 65 Assistant Superintendent of Schools John Price “we cannot confirm that there is no gun”, “but it is within our legal rights not to search. We checked with district attorneys and a legal advocate and it is within our right.”
The school and district believe the following is an appropriate response to an admitted threat of gun violence and intimidation in our school:
* The student and my daughter will have their desks separated in the classroom.
* Staff at the school will 'keep an eye out' for any issues.
As parents, we wanted the school to search the student’s backpack for the remainder of this calendar year. That’s only two weeks. Apathetically and irresponsibly, both the school and district refused.
Please folks, don't kid yourself. Today is the four-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook mass shooting. Awful things can and do happen in our schools. This year as of August, Chicago has recorded more homicides and shooting victims than New York and Los Angeles combined. It’s only a matter of time before this violence migrates to our schools. Given the wanton disregard to our child’s safety demonstrated to us by the leadership of the school and school district, it became apparent to us that our district is ill prepared to deal with the real threat of gun violence in our schools. It’s up to us to hold our school leadership accountable to keep our children safe.