Report by Paula Antolini, September 20, 2019, 7:30PM EDT
Due to the recent threats in Bethel Public Schools Dr. Christine Carver, Bethel Superintendent of Schools, sent a letter to parents, guardians and staff regarding school safety and security and how they address issues related to threats of school violence.
View copy of full text of letter below, sent to us on Sept. 20, 2019 by Dr. Carver’s office, with her approval. (Editor Note: We are trying to set up a faster way for the schools to get this information to us and confirmed, and have spoken to Dr. Carver regarding this.)
Dear Parents, Guardians, and Staff,
Over the past several years, the district has conducted parent sessions regarding our approach as a district to school safety and security. As part of that presentation, we outline how we address issues related to threats of school violence. Given the recent incident, I thought it timely to review proactive measures, procedures for addressing threats, and follow up response to threats.
Our administrators (particularly secondary), in conjunction with the Bethel Police Department, have received training on indicators of school violence through the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). This training includes warning signs and profiles of potential aggressors and proactive strategies. We use this training to proactively provide our students with interventions and use it to develop our school-wide climate and security plans. These interventions are most frequently provided by our school counselors, school psychologists, and social workers who are based in all of our schools. We also have a substance abuse counselor who serves our middle and high school students.
Unfortunately the amount of students who are making threats, which in most instances are not credible, are more frequent than you think. It almost always happens on social media and the typical student response is that, “I was only joking.” Regardless of our perceived intent of the threat, we handle them in the same manner.
- We immediately contact the Bethel Police Department, typically through our School Resource Officers.
- The Bethel Police Department will then conduct a home visit to determine the credibility of the threat. This often includes access to weapons, determination of the nature of the threat, interview of the student and families, assessment of emotional well being, etc.
- The schools and the Bethel Police Department confer on the credibility of the threat and safety of the students and develop a plan collaboratively. Sometimes, given the nature of the threat, it will result in arrest.
- Sometimes, given the nature of the threat and credibility, the student is suspended and/or expelled from school. In some cases, given the nature and severity of the threat, prior to a student’s return to school, a risk assessment is conducted by an outside psychiatrist.
- Prior to the student re-entering school, from suspension or expulsion, the student has a safety and intervention plan. An example of supports include, school-based counseling, monitoring of activity, change in schedule etc.
- On some occasions, if the student is exhibiting significant social-emotional needs, we look at an alternative way to provide the student an education, based on the incident, profile, and level of threat.
As previously stated, almost all of the threats are not credible. To be transparent about any potential threats, we typically send out emails outlining any concerns and our response to those concerns.
We know national statistics have confirmed that in most actual cases of school violence someone knew in advance and did not say anything. That is why we are constantly reinforcing the notion that it is imperative that if you and/or your children “see something – say something.” We will follow up on every concern.
Speaking on behalf of the administrative team, we need parents as partners. We urge you to:
● Set explicit expectations about the use of social media and monitor what your child is doing.
● Stress the importance that any threat of violence could have very serious consequences, regardless of the intent of the threat, including if they were “joking.”
● Stress that all social media is permanent. Even a Snapchat post can be captured in a screenshot.
● If your child does not follow your expectations, take his/her devices away and shut down all social media accounts.
● Be familiar and talk with your child about the warning signs for school violence. By talking about these warning signs, they will see a link between how people might interpret their actions.
● If you feel your child is exhibiting withdrawal, anxiety, depression or any other behaviors of concern, contact your child’s school counselor. They can provide services or make referrals to support your child and family.
The school district has an excellent relationship with the Bethel Police Department. We have outstanding School Resource Officers who work with us collaboratively to ensure the ongoing safety of our students. If parents continue to partner with us, we can reduce the non-credible threats, which
leads to unnecessary anxiety in our students and within the broader community.
Christine Carver, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools