School district ponders how to inform parents of threats

Posted: Friday, June 15, 2001

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The Anchorage School District is considering voice mail and e-mail to keep parents better informed about rumors, threats and actual incidents in schools.

Principals and central office administrators brainstormed ideas Thursday as a follow-up to the stabbings May 7 at Mountain View Elementary School. Before school began that day, a man seriously injured four young boys with a fillet knife and threatened to hurt other children.

In such a serious emergency, district officials say, they cannot call the 400 to 500 parents with children at any elementary school because they are too busy dealing with the crisis.

But in other instances, unfounded rumors that someone is threatening students fly through a school and magnify, and officials are able to inform parents and students about them.

When officials receive a threat, they try to walk a line between overreacting and taking reports seriously, said assistant superintendent Pat McDowell. Sometimes teachers lock classroom doors for increased security if threats are reported.

Sometimes administrators decide to ''dump'' the school -- send everyone outside.

Principals are asked to tell teachers what they know about any threatening incidents the same day or the next morning so they can get information to students. If principals decide parents need to know, they will send notes home, administrators said.

Rumors raged in Anchorage middle and high schools around the April 20 anniversary of the 1999 shootings at Columbine High in Colorado, which left 14 students and a teacher dead. At a middle school and one high school, rumors were serious enough that administrators tightened security and interviewed scores of students. Police also investigated.

None of the rumored threats of harm to Anchorage students turned out to be real, district officials said.

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