If anyone’s wondering how authorities should respond to school threat incidents, look no farther than recent events in Blackfoot for an outstanding example of what to do.
Dealing with a school threat is probably the most stressful situation facing our school officials and law enforcement officers, and in this day and age anyone who takes such a threat lightly is literally putting lives at risk.
Last month’s Valentine’s Day massacre of students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, should serve as a grim reminder of how ignoring a deeply troubled teen will work for a community.
The Blackfoot School District and Blackfoot Police Department were confronted this week with a threat incident and we couldn’t be more impressed with their reaction.
The threat — that a student was going to commit a school shooting at Blackfoot High School — was uncovered on Wednesday. By Wednesday afternoon the Police Department had issued a press release alerting the community that a suspect — a 14-year-old boy — had been taken into custody for threatening violence on school grounds. Police determined the boy did not actually have access to firearms.
But the bottom line is that when a student says that he’s contemplating shooting people, authorities must take action. The student who made the threat needs to be taken into custody and at very least receive a thorough mental health evaluation before being released. Charges in juvenile court should be filed to send a message that threatening to shoot people is totally unacceptable and anyone who makes such threats will pay a steep price.
Blackfoot police and School District officials also deserve praise for very quickly relaying information about the threat incident to the media and public via a detailed press release.
There was no hesitation from the police or School District that this news had to get out and fast. By issuing a press release on the day the threat was uncovered, the police and School District prevented the circulation of false rumors about what happened that would have certainly made matters worse.
On Wednesday night, some additional information about the possibility of other students being involved in the threat incident was uncovered. Once again the Police Department and School District responded promptly and correctly.
Authorities made the decision that until the threat could be further investigated that all Blackfoot School District schools should be shut down on Thursday in the interest of student and staff safety. Although it was eventually determined that additional students were not involved in the threat incident, district officials decided to keep Blackfoot’s schools closed on Friday and cancel final exams.
We live in a world where authorities need to take any hint of a school threat very seriously and that’s just what the Blackfoot School District and Blackfoot Police Department did concerning this week’s threat incident.
Blackfoot residents can have faith that if a young person is thinking about hurting others in the community, the School District and Police Department will respond in force and make sure that young person is taken into custody and properly dealt with by the juvenile justice system.
Blackfoot is certainly and fortunately not Broward County, Florida, where a troubled teenager had dozens of encounters with law enforcement, spoke freely about his desire to attack his school and kill people, and was ignored until that day in which he decided to carry out his massacre. Making that incident worse was the fact responding law enforcement officers inexplicably declined to engage the shooter, allowing him to kill and wound many more innocent victims.
We have no doubt that if Nikolas Cruz was a student in the Blackfoot School District he would have never been able to execute his killing spree.
The events of this week are proof to us all that in Blackfoot, those who threaten school safety can expect to find themselves in police custody.
And that’s the way it should be.