Message to Families: The District's Response to Threats

As we end what has been a very difficult week for many in our district and community, I want to take a moment to share some thoughts.  On Tuesday, our nation learned the heartbreaking and tragic news of a school shooting in Michigan that has left four students dead and multiple others injured. Understandably, anxiety levels across our nation rose among students, staff, and families, even here in Northshore, thousands of miles from where the shooting took place. It’s been a tough week.

Having said that, I want to reassure you that our district has a plan and process to swiftly and effectively address threats in the many forms they take across all of our schools and all of our departments.  When any of our schools are made aware of a perceived threat against any person or population, we immediately initiate an investigation coordinated with district administrative support, often including our law enforcement and mental health partners. In addition, we do our best to communicate to affected staff, students, and families as soon as possible while avoiding jeopardizing an ongoing police investigation.

This message is to answer as many questions as possible about the threats and safety concerns this week and to help you understand Northshore School District safety protocols and responses, as well as what you can do to help keep our community safe; together all things are possible.

This week’s incidents

On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the Bothell High School administration was made aware of graffiti threatening violence against the school on Thursday, Dec. 2 at 12:40 p.m. In keeping with our threat assessment protocol, school administrators immediately notified the Bothell Police Department and Northshore’s Safety and Security team.  An investigation was initiated to identify the source of the message and determine whether it was a credible threat. This information would inform any decisions made regarding next steps to protect student and staff safety, including whether to hold regularly scheduled in-person instruction on Thursday.

As our safety protocols direct, Bothell High School administration notified its staff and then families about the threat investigation. That notification and request for any information regarding the threat resulted in a number of tips as well as unfounded rumors that still had to be investigated (including a threat rumor started at Inglemoor High School, which was quickly deemed not credible). Later that afternoon, more tips led to a possible bomb threat against Bothell High posted on social media. Again, law enforcement and school and district administrators took this seriously. As a result of the new threat, multiple law enforcement agencies from across the region evacuated the campus that evening and completed a comprehensive sweep, which turned up no evidence of a weapon or incendiary device.  

On Wednesday evening, I shared the decision with our Bothell High School staff and families, and our broader Northshore community to close the Bothell High campus on Thursday, Dec. 2 out of an abundance of caution. This also gave school and district administration, as well as law enforcement an opportunity to continue the investigation. On Thursday evening, I spoke with investigators from the Bothell Police Department and we agreed it was safe to reopen school on Friday, Dec. 3, with the understanding that those issues underlying the original threat would continue to be investigated by the police and school administrators.  Further, we continued an expanded police and security presence on the campus. 

Also, on Thursday, there was another rumor of a threat at Inglemoor High School which required us to put the school on Safe Inside status, again as a precautionary measure. Doors were locked and the learning continued while an investigation was initiated. As a result of our threat assessment, it was determined that there was no credible threat. Kenmore Police partnered with the Inglemoor High School administrative team and had a presence on campus as well.

Today, there was an alleged threat against North Creek High School which was found on social media by students and immediately reported. Again, in keeping with our threat assessment protocol, and as a precautionary measure, the school was put on Safe Inside mode, the learning continued and law enforcement officials from Snohomish County responded immediately to begin an investigation in partnership with school administrators and Northshore Safety and Security.  As of a few moments ago, while law enforcement are still investigating, they were able to confirm that all evidence suggests that the source of the NCHS threat is out of state.

Let me say that such threats found in the schools and on social media this week are occurring across our nation, our region, and right here in Northshore. In wake of Tuesday's school shooting in Michigan, Newsweek reports that at least 519 schools across the country have closed due to a flurry of new threats.  We know that to be true here in Northshore as we have received several this week. We may not see every threat and concern verified as having any credibility, but every threat will be investigated thoroughly and consequences meted out as appropriate.  We will continue to take each and every threat seriously. Our school staff will partner with Northshore Safety and Security as well as law enforcement and mental health services, to thoroughly investigate and help us make decisions with one goal – to keep our students, staff, and community safe.

The District’s response to threats 

The safety of our students and staff remains a priority. We take all threats seriously and will have them fully investigated. We maintain a coordinated response.  When a threat is discovered, District Safety and Security staff are called to investigate in partnership with school administration. Also, as evidenced this week, we have a strong relationship with all law enforcement agencies in our district who respond quickly and thoroughly to investigate as appropriate. Law enforcement also provides an increased presence on our campuses as needed. 

We utilize all tools, including, but not limited to video surveillance, and social media. The investigation also includes interviews with students and staff to uncover the origin of the threat. At some point, a team of administrators and law enforcement will review what they’ve learned from the investigation to determine whether the threat is credible and the appropriate course of action.

How Northshore communicates information about potential threats or safety concerns 

Communication about threats specific to a school community will be sent to that school community involved, including its staff and families. We provide as much information as possible as soon as possible while not risking the law enforcement investigation. Families are always encouraged to discuss the threat with their students to find out if they have credible information to contribute to the investigation. If there is any indication that the threat extends beyond the specific school community, a communication will be sent to those who may be impacted.

How to report safety threats and/or concerns immediately 

Whether you are a Northshore student, staff member, family or community member, we can all play a part in keeping one another safe. If you become aware of a possible safety concern or threat, please use the following channels to notify school administration and/or law enforcement as appropriate.  If you feel danger is imminent, dial 911 immediately. In situations where you do not believe there is imminent danger, you or your student can contact any member of the school staff during the day. You can call your local police non-emergency number or use our 24-hour Safe Schools Alert System using the contact information below: 

I understand this week has been a trying week for everyone. If your student needs mental health support as a result of media, social media or discussions related to this week’s events, school counselors and mental health professionals are available to talk with students.  Staff also have supports in place.  Please know that we are doing everything we can to keep students, staff, and our community safe and informed. Together, we can work to keep our community safe. As always, if you see something, say something immediately.

Finally, I want to share what I mean when I say, “here in Our House”.  This is a statement that speaks to a desire -- an expectation -- that we are a single community, united in a deep commitment to our children and to each other.  It evokes a sense of mutual respect, family, and love.  It is what I see and feel most consistently when I am out in our schools.

However, when I see our students target each other in anonymous graffiti and social media posts that are hurtful and threatening, or when I see racist comments and posts, intended to directly and actively injure peers as they have for years, I know it is causing hurt, anxiety and trauma throughout our Northshore community. I am reminded that we still have work to do here in Our House. I know this is part of a larger context fueled by frustration, fear, and pain. We are seeing these posts and threats and racist comments crop up in districts across our region, state, and our country. Not in Our House. We know better. We can do better. We are better together.

Warmest regards,

Michelle Reid, Ed.D.
Superintendent

 

 

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