Rantz: School didn’t report student ‘kill list’ to police, keeps kid in class

Jan 16, 2024, 5:55 PM

student kill list...

Exterior of Horizons Elementary School in Lacey (Photo courtesy of North Thurston Public Schools)

(Photo courtesy of North Thurston Public Schools)

Officials in the North Thurston School District did not report a student to police after he created a “kill list” on January 4, 2024. The parents of a child on the list said the district mishandled the threat.

The district confirmed to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that a 4th-grade student at Horizons Elementary in Lacey created a list with the names of students he wanted to target. Three names were on the list, according to a source, but the district did not disclose the nature of the threats. Rather than contact the police, the school contacted the parents of the students on the list to explain the district was conducting an internal threat assessment. No other parents appear to have been contacted.

After the assessment, the district didn’t think the young student was a serious threat. But to the mother and father of a targeted child, the district needs to rethink its policy.

Threat assessment — minus law enforcement

The father of a student on the list spoke to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH on the condition of anonymity. He fears potential blowback for his child. He said the principal, who communicated exclusively over the phone and not in writing, removed the offending child from the classroom while the school investigated. That investigation lasted approximately a day, according to the parent.

On Jan. 5, the family contacted the principal for an update. The father says the principal told his wife said that the threat assessment was complete. It determined the threat was “not serious.”

“My wife was told that they had completed the threat assessment and determined that the threat was not serious; the child would be returned to class but ‘on the radar’ of the staff.” the father explained. “We specifically asked if law enforcement had been notified, and were told no. The threat assessment was conducted by the principal and a district psychologist. We specifically asked if law enforcement had been notified, and were told no.”

According to the district handbook, the threat assessment might include law enforcement, including a school resource officer (SRO).

Frustration over process

Horizon Elementary has an SRO who operates under the Lacey Police Department. The SRO was not part of the process. Lacey Police Chief Robert Almada explained that the department “was made aware of this incident contemporaneous to it occurring.” But he doesn’t think they needed to be involved.

“The child was quite young, had no history that would support or indicate an ability to commit any violence and does not have access to weapons,” the chief explained to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “As you are aware, children in this age range are not generally considered capable of criminal conduct. The matter was handled administratively by the school and the facts of the incident do not support a criminal investigation at this time.”

Still, the father thinks the school should have utilized the expertise of the SRO. They’re on campus, in part, to help assess potential threats.

“Had the school’s SRO been looped in and part of the assessment, I believe we would be far more comfortable with the district’s process,” he said.

The threat assessment team is tasked with assessing the objectionable behavior, analyzing information about the threat through interviews or any documents obtained, determining the nature and level of severity of the risk the student poses, and offering a timely report to the superintendent.

A district spokesperson confirmed to The Jason Rantz Show on KTTH that the student was deemed a low-risk threat. According to district policy, that threat level is determined if the student “does not appear to pose a threat of serious harm to self/others, and any exhibited issues/concerns can be resolved easily.” If that’s the case, the policy says the threat assessment team does not need to further investigate.

Concerns for his child’s safety

The process and exclusion of law enforcement has made the family feel like their child isn’t safe. The father said he’s now “deeply uncomfortable with the child remaining in class after an incident like that.”

“I hope and pray that it really was simply a 4th grader being dumb, acting out without really understanding the gravity of what he was doing,” the father said. “I certainly hope that he’ll get whatever help he needs to become well-adjusted and grow up into a great person. All that being said, I don’t want to bet my daughter’s life on that. I think, at a bare minimum, he should be moved to another class.”

The family doesn’t want to move their child from the class. They feel it would seem like she’s being punished for being the victim of a threat. Though the district stated it takes student safety seriously, the father is “troubled” by the response.

“While I’m glad that the principal called to inform us and was extremely forthcoming about all of our questions, the overall policy raises red flags for me,” he said.

Threat risk vs. parental comfort

The father thinks other parents in the classroom should have been alerted to the threat. He said if he were in their shoes, he’d be “furious.” Unfortunately, he said this incident makes him wonder how often threats like this have been leveled that he wasn’t told about.

“God forbid if something actually happened and it came out later that the district had this forewarning and simply kept the child in class, that would be both infuriating and far, far too familiar,” he explained.

The district doesn’t explain what the harm would be in looping in the SRO as a matter of policy. Alerting the SRO to a threat assessment does not mean the student would be contacted by the police. It simply means someone with daily expertise in threat assessment would be read into a potential safety issue on campus. And it would make parents feel more comfortable. The children who are victims deserve more peace of mind, even if the threat level is low.

The father hopes that the district rethink the policy. Moreover, he hopes the child is moved to another class and the principal will notify all parents in a classroom where a threat has been made. This process, aside from being concerned about the well-being of his child, has left him wondering if he can trust the district.

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show on weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow Jason on X, formerly known as TwitterInstagram and Facebook.

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