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Threat of school violence gets new look by officials

Garrett Scott, who patrols at Crescent Elk Middle School, said all threats of violence are taken seriously. Fortunately, he said few threats seem to be serious ones. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).
Garrett Scott, who patrols at Crescent Elk Middle School, said all threats of violence are taken seriously. Fortunately, he said few threats seem to be serious ones. (The Daily Triplicate /Stephen Merrill Corley).

By Kent Gray

Triplicate staff writer

Garrett Scott walks a beat inside Crescent Elk Elementary School.

So far he says he hasnt seen serious threats of violence, but hes always alert to the possibility.

Ive investigated a mild amount of threats, Scott said. Most threats do not involve the use of weapons, but are more general in nature. The ones that include the use of weapons are the most serious and are always investigated.

In an attempt to clarify how law enforcement and schools would respond to a threat of violence, the Childrens Services Coordinating Council recently reviewed their Kids With Guns protocol, a guideline for authorities when dealing with school violence.

The bottom line is that it is working the way we intended it to work, said District Attorney Robert Drossel, one of the designers of the protocol. It was ripe for review now because of the reminders we get from violence on schoolgrounds across the nation.

While the guidelines are clear about what to do when a gun is found, officials agree threats are at least as important.

I think we all have to key in on the red flags, Drossel said. Things like threats by students, rage and signs of depression are some of the indicators.

In recent months, police logs reported incidents of threats at Mountain School, Sunset High, Del Norte High, Mary Peacock, Pine Grove Elementary and Joe Hamilton. These ranged from students threatening to bring an axe to school and killing other students to teachers finding a stun gun on campus.

Scott, who is both a Crescent City police officer and a school resource officer at Crescent Elk School, said, Most threats from here have been warning signs to be followed up on. We want to make sure the threats are not serious and that they will not be carried out.

Scott said that two incidents connected with Crescent Elk advanced to the point that authorities sought and received permission from parents to evaluate the access to weapons at the students home. In both cases the homes were found to be secure.

We notify the Probation Department, which is a good source for referral to different programs. We contact Social Services to see if there is a history of violence in the family. And we contact the D.A.s office so they can evaluate the circumstances. We keep everyone on the same page so we can make a consistent investigation each time, he said.

Council member Mick Miller, who is the director of Del Norte Countys Department of Mental Health, said the wording in the protocol will be readdressed in the future.

We intend to revise the protocol to include a more formal statement about threats of violence, Miller said. Especially since our intention is to be as proactive as possible. We want to make sure the kind of violence we have seen on other school campuses around the country does not happen here.

Scott said that despite the seriousness in which authorities deal with threats of violence from students, the problem is not prevalent locally.

Weve had some parents express concern that an officer is on school grounds and carrying a gun, Scott said. But it is important to make clear that my main purpose for being here is to deal with troubled kids and attendance problems.

Aside from Drossel and Miller, the Childrens Services Coordinating Council is comprised of the following individuals: Juvenile Court Judge Robert Weir, Sheriff Jim Maready, Police Chief Bob West, School Superintendent Walt Hanline, Chief Probation Officer Bo Seymour and Jeff Hartson from the Juvenile Justice Commission.

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