Education

A student threatened to ‘shoot up’ middle school pep rally. Parents weren’t told.

Superintendent Scott Hawkins vowed to have better communication with parents after they criticized a decision not to notify them immediately when a student at Woodford County Middle School threatened to “shoot up” a pep rally earlier this month.
Superintendent Scott Hawkins vowed to have better communication with parents after they criticized a decision not to notify them immediately when a student at Woodford County Middle School threatened to “shoot up” a pep rally earlier this month. Woodford County Schools

After Woodford Middle School parents criticized a decision not to inform them that a student threatened to “shoot up” a pep rally earlier this month, the county’s superintendent said he will work to improve communications in the future.

Woodford County Superintendent Scott Hawkins explained that school administration learned of the threat about 1 1/2 hours before the pep rally and the student was removed from class and isolated immediately. “At no time were any students in danger,” he said. Hawkins said the student did not have a weapon with him.

However, Hawkins told parents in a letter posted on Facebook this week that “going forward, Woodford County Schools vows to improve our communication efforts in the hopes that our families always feel confident that their loved ones have a safe and supportive environment in which to learn and work.”

Hawkins told the Herald-Leader that a few parents had called him to complain that they were not immediately notified of the threat. Parents also complained on Facebook.

On Friday Aug. 10, the second day of the school year in Woodford County, a student made a threat that he was going to “ shoot up” a pep rally scheduled for the following Monday, Hawkins said.

But Hawkins said the threat was not reported to school administration until that Monday, about 90 minutes before the pep rally started.

“The student who made the threat was isolated from other students immediately, the threat was investigated, a report was made to law enforcement, and the school has issued an appropriate disciplinary consequence,” Hawkins said in the Facebook post

He said in an interview that district officials made the decision not to send a letter or otherwise notify parents because the pep rally was already over by the time the initial investigation was completed that day. He said school officials determined there was no immediate danger.

“In hindsight, would you do it differently,? Yeah, I think we would. And we are saying that we should have sent a letter home” or made a call “ to inform folks that had taken place, but at no time was anybody ever in any danger,” said Hawkins.

He said he understood why people disagreed with the decision not to notify families that day.

Hawkins said he could not comment on whether the student was criminally charged because that was a police matter.

On Aug. 20, Versailles Police Department officials said in a Facebook post that they were aware of “a possible threat” toward the middle school and along with school district officials investigated the incident. Officials said they were working to ensure the safety of students and staff.

Hawkins said that the school district has not received any additional threats this school year. He said in the Facebook post that all allegations are taken seriously and lead to an immediate investigation.

Following fatal high school shootings by students in Florida and Western Kentucky this past winter, Kentucky schools were challenged by hundreds of threats of violence by students last school year.

Many districts including Fayette County have implemented new safety measures, including standalone metal detectors, as a result.

The Fayette County Board of Education approved a 5 cent tax increase for school safety earlier this year, after a packed hearing for public comments.

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