Threat of violence causes controversy
By Isabelle Spence, Co-Content Editor
On Wednesday, Nov. 14, police action was taken against two freshmen at the school concerning threats of possible violence. The situation prompted conversation throughout the school — students discussed the severity of the punishment, as well as the administration’s response.
The events leading up to that response began a day earlier.
High school students and their families received an email on Tuesday, Nov. 13 from principal Danny Rock, informing the recipients that a rumored threat of violence had been reported and investigated, and was ultimately unsubstantiated. The email also contained a call for more information from the student body.
This email prompted several students and community members to reach out to the administration with further proof of a violence threat. Using this new evidence, the administration quickly developed a plan of action that involved working with and establishing police presence at the high school to ensure the safety of the student body. On the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 14, teachers were also briefed thoroughly on the situation, and encouraged to remain present and visible throughout the school that day.
When school began, the students in questions were called to the high school office and questioned separately by both the high school administration and the police department. This investigation revealed several important truths.
“First, no imminent threat to VHS students was or had been present,” Rock said in his school wide email on Nov. 15. “Second, the threats were clearly communicated and disruptive to the operation of the school.”
In addition, no weapons were brought to the school grounds.
The motivations of the students behind these threats have been discussed within the community at length. Many believe that the students involved did not understand the problems with their actions.
“I am personally convinced these young teens had no idea what kind of impact their actions were going to have on the school, their families, or themselves,” Rock said.
While some sympathize with the students in question, many students do not think ignorance is an excuse in this situation.
“They made a lot of students feel unsafe and scared,” an anonymous freshman said. “Even if it was a joke, that’s not a funny one.”
Students were given a chance to discuss their opinions on Friday, Nov. 16, when two separate SMART assemblies were held, dividing the freshman and sophomores from the juniors and seniors. Rock gave a quick debrief emphasizing the need for privacy and the divide between the upper and lower classmen, leaving little time for questions. Students were then sent back to their classrooms to engage in group discussions with their various classes.
This led to another point of contention: the administration’s handling of the threat and their treatment of the student body. Many students believe that the spread of information to the student body and greater public was mishandled.
“I didn’t know much about the situation until minutes before the assembly,” senior McKenna Teachout said. “I wasn’t informed about how serious it was. It made me uncomfortable to think I walked into the school so oblivious to the situation.”
What may have seemed like a lack of information provided to the students stemmed partially from legal complications. The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act ensures the protection of student identities in situations such as these. Additionally, the police department was conducting an ongoing investigation, in which the school could not interfere.
Finally, the school had deemed that the situation would not lead to violence on campus, so there was no need to caution students on attending school.
Despite the various laws prohibiting disclosure of information, many students still wished for more information to assure peace of mind.
“In a perfect world … the disciplinary process could be fully disclosed,” junior Kasey Kirschling said. “It serves as a reminder for the consequences.”
Though debates over the administration’s actions continue, Rock encourages the students to instead look for the lesson of the situation.
“I encourage our community of students and families, when the opportunity arises, to provide space for these young adults to learn from this and move forward in a better way,” Rock said in his school wide email. “We also learned much as a school and system and more will be learned as move forward together.”