Woods Learning Center

Woods Learning Center

Courtesy Natrona County School District

A mother of a Woods Learning Center eighth-grader says a student at the school threatened to kill her daughter and other students and that warnings to the school district and the Casper Police Department were met with a slow response.

Police, however, say they conducted an investigation into the alleged threats on Friday and “determined that there is no threat to the students or staff at Woods Learning Center.”

Amy Johnson, the mother of one of the students who received specific threats, said she took her daughter out of school Friday after another student said he was going to “shoot up” Woods and said he would specifically target Johnson’s daughter. The student who made the threats was suspended for a week, Johnson said. A spokeswoman declined to comment on any disciplinary action the school had taken but said officials had followed the district’s standard policies.

“I just feel like we need to change some policies on informing parents of serious situations and threats at the school,” Johnson told the Natrona County School District board of trustees on Monday night. “There were some terroristic threats made to my daughter at school, and no parents were notified at all. It was really upsetting.”

She later told reporters that police informed her that an officer would come to her home, but she said no one ever arrived.

Police response

All students involved in the incident were interviewed immediately after police received a call from Woods on Sept. 19, said Sgt. Scott Jones, who oversees the Casper Police Department’s school resource officers. Woods Learning Center is an elementary and middle school on the city’s east side.

A school resource officer concluded there was no imminent threat to students. Disciplinary measures would be up decided by the school, Jones added.

Although the school had already looked into the threat and found it unlikely to be indicative of danger to students, Jones said it is policy for school resource officers to investigate any threat.

The student who made a threat had neither the ability nor inclination to follow through on it, Jones said, who was limited in what he could say due to the age of the students.

“Did the kid say something dumb?” Jones asked. “Oh, absolutely.”

Jones said that after interviewing the students involved, police found “zero probable cause,” to charge anyone involved.

“It would have been improper and inappropriate to take him into custody,” Jones said, in reference to the student.

Jones said he had no idea why Johnson thought the police hadn’t been responsive.

Concerning statements

In a message posted to a Casper Facebook page over the weekend, Johnson said the student had been asking around for firearms and had told some students to wear certain colors so he wouldn’t shoot them.

Tanya Southerland, spokeswoman for the district, declined to comment on Johnson’s Facebook post.

Johnson told media on Monday night that she called the police department several times last week to raise the alarm about the threats and did not immediately hear back. She said the student had said he was going to “shoot up” Woods and that he would wait until Johnson’s daughter’s back was turned and then shoot her, too.

“He made threats verbally, electronically and to her face,” Johnson said. She said she had sent an email to every member of the board concerning what happened.

Her daughter and the boy had been good friends, Johnson said. She said she had no idea why he made the threats against her daughter and other students.

She said that her daughter was not the only student threatened and that another parent had prompted the investigation by law enforcement. She said that, to her knowledge, other parents at Woods had not been informed about the threats.

Johnson told the school board that there felt like there were “a billion roadblocks” for parents to navigate in order to deal with the district.

District reacts

The district posted an ambiguous message to Facebook on Friday, referring to a “safety report” at Woods but providing few other details. The police replied to that post to say that there was no threat.

Southerland said when threats are made against a student, staff or facility, the district initiates a three-step response:

The leader of the building places the person in question in a supervised setting while law enforcement conducts a risk assessment.

The results of the assessment are shared with district officials. If the threat is determined to be unfounded, the case is closed. If it’s considered real, the person making the threat is removed from the “regular school setting” and a comprehensive risk analysis is conducted.

Depending on the results of that examination, next steps are determined.

Southerland said this process was initiated after the threat was made to Woods. Though she declined to give the student’s status, she said the district was continuing through its three-step process.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Star-Tribune reporter Seth Klamann covers local and statewide education issues.

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