OMAK – The Omak School District is taking heat from parents over an incident in which a high school student allegedly drew pictures of guns and made comments about a school shooting.
The student was removed from school, said district officials.
A number of parents kept their children home from school after rumors began circulating through the community. The district’s Facebook page, where an alert about the incident was posted, was swamped with comments.
“We’d like to address the reports of the possible school shooting threat at the high school that surfaced this week,” said the district’s May 10 post.
According to the district, the student was removed from the building “and police have a presence at the high school today during school hours.”
An investigation by police was to determine if any charges would be filed, according to the district.
“Police were contacted and consulted as part of the high school’s threat assessment process and are now taking the time to look deeper into the remarks made by the student.”
Omak Police Chief Jeff Koplin said his office was notified about 2 p.m. May 9 about a discipline problem with a student that had occurred “over the course of days.”
He said after the student allegedly drew pictures of guns in class, school officials talking to the student about it. The student then allegedly made comments about a school shooting, to which district officials responded by talking to the student and guardians.
School officials apparently were going to handle the problem in house, Koplin said.
He said he learned of the problem Thursday afternoon from a parent. After that, he received several phone calls.
That’s about the point the rumor mill picked up the story, with social media getting hold of it on Thursday evening.
According to Omak police complaints, a parent contacted police at 6:52 a.m. Friday, May 10, about the caller’s son receiving a snapshot about a text concerning a school shooting.
The school district then made its Facebook post later that morning, just before 11 a.m. That set off another round of social media comments.
“We will provide factual updates to this statement as facts are developed,” said the district post. “Please contact the school office for accurate information and resist social media as retelling any post frequently changes the accuracy. Thank you to our vigilant community for helping us ensure that our students and staff are safe on a daily basis.”
The Chronicle also questioned why the district didn’t notify media outlets about the situation.
District spokeswoman Georgia Lamb said the district uses a notification system and posts to Facebook before informing the media.
Superintendent Erik Swanson did not reply to a Chronicle request for additional information about the situation.
Meanwhile, parents sounded off on the district’s Facebook page.
“I kept my kids home today due to the fact of the lack of information on the school’s behalf,” wrote Josh Yaksic. “Hopefully next time you can inform us instead of our kids coming home and telling us of a rumor that was true.”
Heather Cruz wrote that she, too, kept her children home on Friday.
“I kept waiting for a notice from the school but to no avail. If you called them they were all mum,” she wrote.
Others wrote about how parents should consider forming a parent-teacher organization, while another said she was thinking about home schooling.
“Other districts have open communication in place to avoid confusion and rumors from the beginning,” wrote Nick Martin. “When I spoke out before I was treated by school officials as (if) I had done something wrong. It’s time for them to put a communication system in place to avoid confusion and conflicting information.”
Other parents said they were unaware of the incident until they read about it on Facebook.
Koplin said his office will forward its investigative report to the Okanogan County Prosecutor’s Office, “but I don’t believe it was a credible threat.”