Rangeview’s safety becomes a pressing issue

Empty+classroom+on+October+8%2C+2015.+Many+students+didn%27t+come+to+school+that+day+fearing+their+safety.+

Empty classroom on October 8, 2015. Many students didn’t come to school that day fearing their safety.

By Sean Cunningham, Reporter

Featured Image: Empty classroom on October 8, 2015. Many students didn’t come to school that day fearing their safety. (RHS Student)

 

Problem

October 8 a threat directed at teacher by two students led to panic and fear at Rangeview High School after details of the threat were released on social media. A nearly half-empty school building greeted students that day. Many parents called kids in sick before school or even during the first couple of periods, fearing only the worse for their students as the threat came just a week after the Oregon community college shooting. Almost all teachers opted to go that day, serving as emotional and educational support for students who did decide to show up to school, but many questioned the decision to have school at all that day and the lack of communication to parents, students, staff and the community.

 

Actions Taken

Superintendent Rico Munn, who ultimately made the decision to have school on Oct. 8, took some time recently to answer questions from the Raider Review about the situation on Oct. 8 and school safety concerns.

“We take every threat seriously,” Munn said. “We evaluate threats seriously and take action accordingly. It was determined not credible, so school went on as is. We took appropriate measures of the threat. Then informed the community of appropriate circumstances.”

When asked about not notifying parents and teachers the night that the threat got out and made its rounds on social media, Munn responded, “They did notify the community the next morning, you can’t get quite ahead of social media…we’ll never beat social media.”

To note, the article that released this information by the Aurora Sentinel was released at 8 p.m. the night of Oct. 7. When asked what the downsides were of notifying parents and staff and the hysteria it would cause, Munn had to say, “We were still evaluating the threat that night. To investigate and get accurate information is a long process.”

Asked about his thoughts if that he had lost trust from parents, staff, and students for the way the situation was handled, Munn responded, “We were involved with the parents and community explaining the results of the investigation and we hope that as soon as they got the full picture they’d feel safer.”

The normally packed parking lot lies earily empty. Captured on  a "Snapchat" story. (Isaiah Carrillo)
The normally packed parking lot lies earily empty. Captured on a “Snapchat” story. (Isaiah Carrillo)

Questions were then asked to math department teacher, Mr. Joiner who has taught for the past 24 years and currently has a child attending Rangeview High School.

“I wouldn’t say I lost trust in the district,” Joiner remarked when asked if he lost some trust in the school district for the way the situation was handled. “I think the district was partly unclear of how serious the threat was, and I think there was issues with the police and investigation. I think they could’ve done better.”

Munn said the Aurora Police Department deemed the many student threats e-mailed to multiple teachers at Rangeview that started early on the week of Oct. 5 were not credible, even though the student could not be identified by authorities until Oct. 8.

Freshman Joseph Muñoz said, “I came to school that day, I was nervous the whole day because you never know if it could happen at that exact moment. It was a sad day because hardly anyone was at school.”

For those wondering how a threat is deemed credible or not Munn went on to say, “The Aurora Police Department along with school security officers determine whether the threats are credible or not.”

When asked if Joiner would’ve sent his kid to school if he knew the night before he responded, “Well, I was here and my student was here too. I wasn’t fearful, so I wouldn’t have sent my son home either way.”

“I’ve been teaching for 24 years and I’ve always felt out of the loop in situations like this,” Joiner said. “With the district and school wanting to do due process they don’t give a lot of information. I think we as teachers should at least have more info than the students do because it just ends up creating a bigger commotion than the student absences you saw that day.

When asked how many dummy threats APS receives a day, Munn simply responded, “There’s no tracker; we receive threats and we try to respond with the appropriate resources.”

Student’s hyped October 8 big on social media, especially since it was a week after the Oregon Community College shooting; many expressed frustration but how the APD, district and school handled the issue. The question remains is how safe is RHS now?

“I went to school that day,” said senior Isaiah Benavente-Santifer, “I only cared for the threat a bit at the time, but right now I can say it really wasn’t that important.”

When asked how she felt about the superintendent’s answer of not being able to beat social media, RHS social studies teacher Stephanie Walsh responded, “We have to have a communication ladder as an employee of the school.

“Even if there is an ongoing investigation, I feel as if that’s all they should tell. I had no source of communication to reassure my own students. As a parent if they handled it like the bomb threat at Smoky Hill High School, which my sons attend, and gave parents many texts throughout the day about the situation I’d have a form of reassurance.”

Walsh thought there was “an error in process and protocol” and went on to say, “No parent should find out that there’s a threat to their building through the media, period. It creates fear and trust issues through staff and parents and there had to be a breakdown of communication.”

Benavente-Santifer’s comment led to a bigger question: Are people desensitized to public threats in general? Since October 8, America has had eight big media covered shooting such as the planned parenthood public shootings that happened close by in Colorado Springs, the shooting of five Black Lives Matter protesters in Minneapolis, and the couple who killed 14 people in the San Bernardino shootings.

 

Outside of Rangeview

Closer to home, at Arapahoe High School in Littleton, a recent report on the school shooting death of student 17-year-old Claire Davis found major flaws in how the school administrators handled the threats of the shooter.

Many are now asking if public shootings been happening so much, that events like these have become just another thing? As of December 16th, mass shooting have totaled a number of 353 in the United States alone. (http://www.shootingtracker.com/wiki/Mass_Shootings_in_2015.)

Claire Davis, the victim of the 2015 Arapahoe High School Shooting.
Claire Davis, the victim of the 2015 Arapahoe High School Shooting.

“I don’t know as much as it’s a trust issue,” Walsh said. “We need to be very clear as to what procedures are. All players need to to know what the procedure is, as a parent I need to know if there’s a threat…. I think teachers can help, if you don’t want my help at least tell me that.”

The juvenile responsible for the threats, a freshman, was found that day on October eighth and were charged and arrested for the threats directed at the teacher, according to staff.

Compassionate answers from teachers, thoughts to digest from fellow RHS students, and an answer from the man on top of the food chain himself, Superintendent Rico Munn, makes it clear everyone takes threats like these seriously and there is always a time to band together as a community to ask the important questions and acknowledge all sides to the story.

 

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