Archive for Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Police investigating Free State student who allegedly threatened shooting on social media; principal says disciplinary action will be taken

Free State High School

Free State High School

February 20, 2018, 6:59 a.m. Updated February 20, 2018, 5:12 p.m.


Lawrence police are investigating a message by a Free State High School student who reportedly threatened to shoot people at school.

A Free State student reported to school staff that another Free State student made an “indirect threat” on Snapchat about killing people, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said via email. She did not disclose what the Snapchat post said.

On Tuesday morning, Lawrence police confirmed that just after 8 p.m. Monday, officers responded to a west Lawrence residence regarding a threatening comment posted to a social media site. One person was taken to a medical facility for evaluation, according to Sgt. Amy Rhoads.

Police provided no further information about the incident but said an affidavit had been submitted to the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office.

When contacted Tuesday, the DA’s office said it was not able to provide additional information.

On Tuesday afternoon, Free State Principal Myron Graber sent an email to parents assuring them that the suspect, who was “threatening a school shooting,” was “quickly identified and apprehended” and that appropriate disciplinary action would be taken. He also said that the threat on social media did not have a particular target and was quickly removed.

“I know that we are all concerned about school safety given the recent events,” Graber said, adding, “we greatly appreciate the watchful eye and communication that you provide us, specifically in the social media era.”

Boyle said that in addition to notifying the police department, the district also sent a recorded message to all Free State parents and staff Monday. That phone call occurred around 10:40 p.m.

The district said it would continue to work with the police department on the incident and would keep the public informed about the investigation when more information is made available.

The incident regarding Free State happened just five days after 17 people were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Boyle said an increased police presence at Free State High School, 4700 Overland Drive, was planned for Tuesday, but the district ended up canceling all classes because of Tuesday’s ice storm. However, Boyle said “there will be a police presence at school” on Wednesday.

When asked if the district could reassure people that the student would not be allowed back in school, Boyle said the district was unable to share any further details related to the student “due to student privacy rights.”

In his email Tuesday, Graber said the district continued to evaluate safety plans.

“Free State will not tolerate threats and will take all of the necessary steps to maintain a safe school environment,” he said.

Josh Powers, a Lawrence resident and father of a Free State student, said he felt the district’s response to the incident was “adequate and appropriate.” At the same time, he expressed concern about the lack of information available to parents.

“We don’t know who the student was or what the threat was — and may never know,” he said, adding that the school district was in a tough spot between abiding by the letter of the law with regard to student privacy and responding to the legitimate concerns of parents and students. “I honestly don’t have enough information about what happened to feel safe sending my kid back to school — to Free State or to any school.”

“I had to have a very uncomfortable and sad conversation with my daughter,” he said, regarding his explanation to her of the school’s message. “We need an honest conversation locally and nationally. We’re in a sad place right now.”

Hilary Morton, a music teacher at Free State, said teachers at the school found out about the threat the same way parents did, by a late-night phone call. She said teachers were not told anything about the student or what the threat was.

“We all feel like we would like to know who it is so that we can have a better understanding of how to conduct our classrooms,” she said. But she praised the district for taking the threat seriously and making staff and parents aware of it. “At this point, we need to take every threat seriously.”

Morton said that teachers at the school conduct periodic safety drills, which include locking doors, turning off lights, and getting students away from windows, among other things.

“Kids always ask me ‘did you do this in high school?” And Morton, who graduated from high school a year before the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, tells them, “No, I didn’t; this is scary.”


Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months ago

Make sure you confiscate his guns and put him in custody until he has gone through extensive mental evaluation. Oh wait. That's anti NRA and we are a pro NRA state.

Pete Kennamore 2 months ago

Dorothy, would you mind providing reference to the NRA opposing the investigation and action to address a specific threat of violence by a person?

Daniel Kennamore 2 months ago

That's a bit disingenuous and boarding on Strawman territory.

I'm sure they wouldn't ever say 'don't investigate a threat', but they would also never support any action that would take away someone's gun short of murdering someone.

Bob Smith 2 months ago

"...but they would also never support any action that would take away someone's gun short of murdering someone..." Wrong again, Danny.

Daniel Kennamore 2 months ago

Okay, please show me all the current laws for gun control the NRA supported during their creation that includes taking away someone's gun for anything short of murder.

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months ago

"Many gun-rights activists oppose the laws. They say they can be used to unfairly take away rights from people who have not been convicted of crimes, nor professionally evaluated for mental illness.

The NRA’s lobbying arm has said such laws enable courts to remove Second Amendment rights “based on third-party allegations and evidentiary standards” that are lower than what’s required in criminal proceedings."

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months ago

Wow, I provide evidence of the NRA's stance on red flag laws, and Pete disappears, and sends in Sam, Brock, and the BS to throw stupid insults. But then I'm sure they are busy donating more money to NRA and buying even more guns. The NRA and gun manufacturers all thank you for making them richer by the way. But some more after the next mass shooting.

Brock Masters 2 months ago

Careful or she will spit in your face.

Bob Smith 2 months ago

To the devil with due process! Dorothy has made her judgment.

Michael Urish 2 months ago

I am grateful for our students that SEE SOMETHING...SAY SOMETHING

Jody Meyer 2 months ago

The report says the student threatened to kill people. There is more than one way to do that besides shooting people.

Beverly Stauffer Thrower 2 months ago

Glad to see that students are aware and that administrators responded appropriately and quickly. Hope this student gets the help that is needed.

Calvin Anders 2 months ago

Kind of tough to tell based on the information provided what a "indirect threat on Snapchat" really is. Is this an insightful, proactive marshaling of resources to address a situation that could easily escalate, or some knee jerk, CYA busywork because everyone is whipped into a panic already? I'm not sure we will ever find out. I'm happy enough to see school officials and law enforcement being diligent, but I do hope no one's life is derailed if they just made an off hand remark on social media that could be construed as threatening. I'm not saying I know that's what happened, but the school district is being pretty cagey with the details. It would be nice to know what exactly was posted and in what context.

Dale Miller 2 months ago

One thing I have learned concerning these kinds of incident aftermaths is the jump in either copy cat wannabes or players who are seeking attention by making threat innuendoes. The problem with both is they have to be addressed. We just learned what happens when they are not. Which of your loved ones would you be willing to risk because I as a school official, law enforcement, or the FBI was more concerned a threatening individual's life might be detailed by an of hand remark on social media? We might consider social media not be an venue of off hand remarks, bulling, etc.

Calvin Anders 2 months ago

Dale, I'm not saying threats should not be addressed. My concern is that details are very sketchy about what was actually posted. Without more information, I'm concerned that the student who made the post may be subjected to an over reaction that is possibly unwarranted. I think a reaction from the school is a positive, I think informing law enforcement is another positive. It's when we get to the removal of the student from his home and committing him/her for psychiatric evaluation that I start to wish we knew more before supporting that level of reaction. The vague characterization of the "threat" makes me concerned that there may have been an over reaction. I'd just like to know a little more before deciding this kid is such a dangerous monster. Why will the school and/or law enforcement not share more specifics on the language of the post? Why are more people not demanding more details before jumping to conclusions?

Harlan Hobbs 2 months ago

Glad to see so many self-professed mental health experts are around. This subject is highly complex, but to the liberals it is always symbolism over substance. Another law here, and another law there - - as if you can legislate morality and crazy behavior.

You can't change the people, so you had better address the system with more security and meaningful efforts to protect the schools. Anything less is simply "window dressing."

Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 2 months ago

Part of the security is the SEE SOMETHING - SAY SOMETHING program. Or do you consider that squealing? And if they find a lot of guns and ammo in this kid's house, you do not agree with confiscating them?

Dale Miller 2 months ago

In this case the "DO SOMETHING" was what didn't happen here. How he got a gun legally after looking at his history is beyond me. That being said, if he couldn't get a gun legally would you stake your life that he couldn't get one illegally? Do you understand just how hard it is to keep guns, knives, claw hammers, cars, pressure cooker bombs, etc out of this guy's possession? Have you considered pulling this mentally ill person off the field, away from all these dangerous tools until he is safe enough to come back into society?

Richard Aronoff 2 months ago

When it comes to killing someone, exactly what is an "indirect threat?"

David Teska 2 months ago

Could be the wording, such as "off someone" or "get rid of" rather than "I'm going kill that so-and-so..."

Jim Slade 2 months ago

It could be something like "I bet they wouldn't be so tough if something like Parkland happened at Free State"

While not directly saying "I'm going to do this" it hints at the possibility they are planning to do so.

Dale Miller 2 months ago

Words cannot express the happiness I felt when I learned of this incident and our students' response SEE SOMETHING - SAY SOMETHING and School Officials responding quickly and aggressively with Lawrence Law Enforcement taking decisive action! I found the Lawrence Journal World effectively following up by communicating with the local community so we can be well informed. I'm proud of each and every one of these groups for doing this. Don't get cocky though. This kind of evil keeps coming and will be trying all the angles to make bad things happen.

I know our community would never want to see this kind of thing come to our town so we need to constantly look for more layers of safety. I certainly am not the end all or go to guy to fix this problem but I do look at things which could help as well as the things which don't. One thing I don't think that works are those "NO GUN" signs which are posted around schools and businesses. I think they have been 100% ignored by every shooter but someone might check and see if that is correct. In the same breath, we might want to consider focusing on the individual who's making the threats and remove him/her from their ability to follow through with their threat of violence. We might want to pass a law, if there already isn't one, which takes a person's threat seriously and take them off the playing field until they get mentally stable. I don't want anyone shot, knifed, hit by a vehicle, claw hammered, been run through with a sharpened screwdriver, pressure cooker blown up, etc. Those of you who don't feel that way, please let us know your feelings. Remember this though HEAR SOMETHING - SAY SOMETHING isn't just for the guy in Florida we DIDN'T DO SOMETHING or the person here in Lawrence which we DID DO SOMETHING. This goes for everyone whether they are one of my favorite singers Madonna or even one of my favorite actors Johnny Depp. It's time for all of us to understand everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else.

Lastly, we might want to look at how hardened all our local school facilities are in reality. I have my opinion where we currently are and am hopeful our school officials as well as the other people who love these children might consider having a reality check. We've already experienced the gore on television. Know it can get worse.

Bill Pasquel 2 months ago

To the citizens, school, and law enforcement that intervened and possibly prevented another nightmare in our schools, THANK YOU SO MUCH! And Great Job!!

This is actually a big thing and a great commentary on how to help prevent some of the horrible things that have happened in our Nations schools and even streets. It has nothing to do with the NRA or other political agendas.

If I am correct, and correct me if I am wrong, one has to be 18 years old to legally purchase (not private sale) a long rifle/shotgun and 21 years old to legally purchase (not private sale) a handgun. With that in mind, where in the hell was this kids parents?? Am thinking he had been calling out for help for a long time...Really sad.

Monty Amick 2 months ago

I reread the article. Didn't see where it said he actually had a weapon. Interesting..

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