RPSB details response to school threats amid parents’ concerns over Rapides High case
RAPIDES PARISH, La. (KALB) - On Monday, Oct. 3, concerned parents attempted to gather outside of Rapides High School, just days after a social media threat hoax left many flustered at the beginning of an otherwise typical school day.
The most recent threat to Rapides High follows a few weeks of threats targeting Rapides Parish schools, including a robocall that impacted more than a dozen schools statewide, like Leesville High School and DeRidder High School. All those threats turned out to be hoaxes.
On Sept. 30, RPSO responded to threats made on social media against Rapides High in Lecompte. The suspected student was arrested, cited and released to the parents at school that morning. That same day, police determined a different person was actually likely behind the threats. That juvenile, who is also a student at Rapides High, was arrested Sunday and booked on one count of terrorizing and one count of obstruction of justice.
Since the incident, News Channel 5 has received multiple calls, emails and comments from parents over how the investigation unfolded, concerned about school safety.
For parents gathered at the Rapides High flag pole at high noon Monday, they wanted to ensure things went smoothly for students’ first day back since the threat. Those parents, though, were told by law enforcement that they could not meet, so as to not disrupt classes.
“As long as everything looks good, we’re gonna allow them to do their job, as well,” said one parent. “You know, everything looks to be in order, so we’re gonna allow them to do what they do as well.”
According to the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office, a parent had organized a walkout of students in protest of how the social media threat was handled on Sept. 30.
The organizer, who was not at the school when we arrived, was driven to the school by another individual. The organizer checked her child out of the school and returned to the vehicle. However, the driver, who RPSO identified as Tracey Weaver, 52, of Forest Hill, who does not have a child attending the school, got out of the vehicle for the protest. She was asked to leave the premises by the principal, but allegedly, Weaver refused to leave. A deputy then asked her to leave, and she again refused.
She was taken into custody without incident and placed under arrest for criminal trespassing. Weaver was then issued a criminal citation and released. She left the school grounds without further incident, and RPSO said no other incidents occurred for the remainder of the school day.
In light of parental concerns, News Channel 5 sat down with the Rapides Parish School Board’s Assistant Superintendent of Administration, Clyde Washington, to address how threats toward Rapides Parish schools are handled.
The first step for schools that have received a threat, which ultimately plays a significant role in the actions that follow, is determining if a threat is credible or imminent. If it fits the criteria for being credible or imminent, law enforcement is immediately contacted.
“They’re informed on the front end,” said Washington. “Because we want to make sure that measures are in place. [With] law enforcement being aware of the situation, they’re gonna probably be on-site looking into the situation to get more intel, as far as the threat.”
If the threat is not deemed credible or imminent, the administration will begin to conduct its own investigation.
“The administrator will conduct an investigation into that identifying the person who made the threat, also looking at who the threat was made against, gathering as much factual data as possible in order to determine if it’s actually credible or not,” said Washington.
An investigation must be completed within 48 hours with a threat assessment. From there, the administration will determine the level of concern and move forward with disciplinary and legal action, which can include contacting law enforcement and recommendations for expulsion if students are involved.
However, even though there are protocols in place for handling threats, specific actions are approached on a case-by-case basis, including evacuation and contact with parents.
“First of all, we want to ensure the safety of their kids,” said Washington. “That’s our top priority. At the same time, we want to make sure that we cover our bases, in terms of doing a thorough investigation and not just saying anything. So, we want to make sure we communicate the facts.”
“There are different procedures within our emergency preparedness plans that are unique for each school, the administrative team and who’s involved in that process,” said Superintendent Jeff Powell “But every situation is unique, and we count on the leadership teams at the schools as well as the emergency response teams assigned to the school, as well as the emergency response teams assigned to these situations.”
If parents feel their concerns are not being heard, they can take those concerns further up the chain of command.
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