KELLOGG — Earlier this week, Kellogg Middle School hosted an informational parent meeting regarding the threats that had been made against the school two weeks ago.
KMS principal Jan Bayer, Kellogg School District superintendent Woody Woodford, and Kellogg Police Sergeant Paul Twidt were on hand to give their accounts of what went on that evening, help parents understand the process they have to abide by when it comes to situations like this, and then discuss what they are doing to improve their processes and security.
To begin, both Twidt and Woodford recounted their version of the events on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 22. Around 9 p.m., the Kellogg Police Department was notified by the Kellogg School District there was a possible threat to KMS from a student, after a troubling post on the social media platform Snapchat was reported. Following their immediate investigation, officers brought the student in for questioning during the early hours of Friday morning, at which point the juvenile admitted during the interview their intention to carry out a school shooting scenario at KMS and identified themselves as a school shooter.
By 1 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 23, the juvenile had been arrested and was transferred to Kootenai County Juvenile Detention Center in Coeur d’Alene.
Following the recap of the events, Woodford and Bayer stated that at the advisement of the police, the threat had been neutralized and it was perfectly safe for kids to attend school.
Parents who attended the meeting expressed outrage that they weren’t notified of the threat, investigation and conclusion of the event; but received a bit of an education on the strict guidelines that schools are forced to navigate in circumstances like these.
“It’s sticky in the state of Idaho, we can’t release the name of the student, or even the specifics of a situation unless there has been a direct threat to one specific student,” Bayer said. “We walk a fine line with that. We had parents calling to ask questions the next day, but we couldn’t answer certain questions.”
In a recent meeting between the local school districts and local law enforcement, the reason behind confidentiality was explained.
Laws prohibit agencies from releasing information on individuals (such as when a juvenile is involved) in certain cases.
In others, information released too early to the public could endanger certain individuals or threaten to derail a case being brought up by the prosecutor’s office.
Most importantly though, play-by-play updates have the chance of giving people an incomplete picture of the situation and causing unnecessary panic.
In this instance, the police had deemed the threat to be completely contained and the school safe, but confidentiality for the student involved was still present.
Moving forward from this has not been easy for the school. Student and parent concerns have flooded the staff recently and it also prompted the fast tracking of the single-entry systems on the front doors to the schools.
“We are reflecting on this,” Bayer said. “We want to look at our policies and see what we could have done differently and what we want to change. It’s been tough on the kids, they want to talk about it. We have had teacher-led meetings during the student’s advisory periods to discuss the situation the best they can. Since September, we have had an increased police presence in our school to increase the visibility of law enforcement. We are also now using a single entry security system to enter our schools as well.”
The single-entry system requires entrants to press a button that alerts office staff that there is someone at the door and they have the power to unlock it.
Things got interesting when parents began asking questions. Some parents still didn’t quite like that information wasn’t being released and readily available. Others were curious if the school has practiced lockdown drills and what their lockdown policy was and how long before parents would be notified if a situation was to ever happen.
“We recently had a police-supervised lockdown drill during a lunch period, and in that drill we had the hallways and cafeteria cleared and locked down within a minute and 30 seconds,” Bayer said. “We were also able to have every student accounted for within 30 minutes, which is a quick time. If there was a real threat or shooter, it may not be that fast. But only once that building is secure and the students are safe, then we have a procedure to begin notifying parents.”
This notification process isn’t always fast though. In various circumstances in other situations around the country, those notifications may come several hours after an event has happened depending on how long securing the building and students takes.
Lockdown policy and procedure for specific schools is also not available to the public, as it could be used to someone’s advantage should a school shooter situation ever arise.
Woodford ended the meeting by discussing how much emphasis the Kellogg School District is putting on security in their schools and how the parents can help.
“We are working to pass a 10-year plant and facility levy in the coming month, with the focus of those dollars being for building security,” Woodford said. “Security is an issue in every single building we have and the more money we have, the better we can do that. It takes resources and we don’t have them right now. That levy will be voted on May 15, and it will fund a 10-year effort to improve the security in our schools.”