Parents voice concerns in wake of student threats

Tension over school and student safety ran a bit high at the Rush City School Board meeting Thursday night, with several parents voicing concerns over how the district handled the alleged threats made by a high school student Monday.

“Our schools are safe,” stressed Board Chairman Scott Tryon to the 60 or so in attendance in the high school media center.

Still, frustrated parents asked why the district didn’t contact them sooner about the incident, rather than hearing it from their children, social media or news mediums later that night. Others asked about the 17-year-old and if he’d be expelled or return to school one day. If so, then what? Some inquired about the security systems in place or not in place at school. Some asked that if there wasn’t a threat to school or student safety, then why was an arrest made by local law enforcement?

At issue, a 17-year-old high school student was arrested Monday, Dec. 17 after allegedly threatening to bomb and “shoot up” the school. The male student also reportedly made direct threats against a female student just before the noon hour.

While the high school and its staff acted on existing policies and procedures in handling such an incident, Superintendent Vern Koepp said Thursday night, deputies from the Chisago County Sheriff’s Office were also involved and spoke to two students who affirmed the male student had made the threats.

Concerned parents and members of the community listen intently to Superintendent Vern Koepp address Monday’s incident during the Dec. 20 school board meeting. Photo by Jon Tatting

Concerned parents and members of the community listen intently to Superintendent Vern Koepp address Monday’s incident during the Dec. 20 school board meeting. Photo by Jon Tatting

At the board meeting, Supt. Koepp carefully laid out how staff, including principal Brent Stavig, handled the incident. He pointed to the inaccuracies and rumors that started to buzz in social media circles in the hours after school let out for the day.

Stavig also noted how he approached it, emphasizing the importance of keeping a cool and collected environment at school.

Still, the people wanted answers that were difficult for the board to answer, due in part to data privacy laws that protect students and the fact that any major changes will take time. The board did agree to keep the doors locked with a hired greeter at both schools through the end of January.

— A full report from this meeting will be published in next week’s Post Review

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