Thompson Falls Police are investigating threatening comments allegedly made by a student last week at Thompson Falls High School.
The incident on Nov. 16 reportedly happened during the lunch hour at school. The suspected student was reportedly removed from the lunch room after administrators learned of the incident.
Classes went on as scheduled after it was determined there was no immediate threat to student or staff safety. Preliminary disciplinary actions have been taken toward the student in question, Thompson Falls Schools Superintendent Jason Slater said, and further action could come after investigations have concluded.
Slater sat down with the Clark Fork Valley Press to explain the school’s protocols and procedures following incidents such as the one that took place.
According to Slater, Thompson Falls High School Principal Rich Ferris immediately contacted local authorities to advise of the situation.
“Mr. Ferris, once he was made aware of the comments made by a student during a lunch; he acted quickly and appropriately. He contacted myself, the Thompson Falls police chief, then proceed to talk to the student in question,” said Slater.
He said school administrators and law enforcement reviewed a video of the incident “to ensure we could see what happened and also identify any other persons to speak with to understand what had actually been said,” explained Slater.
“We are utilizing a team of professionals such as the local police chief, our [student resource officer], teachers, principal and school psychologist and counselor to ensure that each part of the investigation into the actions of the student, and also the risk assessments of the threat, are compiled and completed adequately,” said Slater.
Some parents have questioned whether the actions taken by the school were adequate. Local Facebook group Sanders County 411 has already seen a thread of 42 comments from concerned parents who are discussing the threats made during school hours.
Slater said there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration when it comes to school threats, and that it’s best to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.
“We have to investigate and get to the root of the problem,” he explained.
“Social media can be a great tool, but it can also be something of a negative as well. With the situation we are currently in, we don’t want to just say something for the sake of it. We want to do the correct thing and take the correct procedures to ensure we [educators] are understanding the cause to what has happened,” he said.
Slater said a risk assessment determined that the student in question “does not have the backing of making the threat a reality,” he said.
Slater said there are a number of factors that get taken into consideration during the assessment.
“Details from talking with the student and their family, to looking at the video that we have of the incident, talking to students, staff and so forth,” he went on to say.
Slater reiterated that students and staff safety are paramount at the school.
“We want everyone to feel safe, though we understand that some students may have felt unsafe when the remarks were made. We [Slater and Ferris] are also parents, not just educators, and we understand both sides of the scope. This is why we are taking all precautions and following all procedures and advisements of local police and other professionals involved to keep everyone safe,” he explained.
“We honestly care about our students and we will continue to work as a team to ensure that this kind of incident will hopefully not happen again,” said Slater.