A student is credited with averting potential violence at Olathe Middle School by reporting on Dec. 8 a school-shooting threat.
The Montrose County School District and Montrose County Sheriff’s Office issued a joint news release about the incident on the morning of Dec. 9.
The news release states that Wednesday morning, Dec. 8, the district was notified of a “credible threat of violence.” A student told administrators at OMS that, while on the bus ride home the prior afternoon, another student had threatened to harm others at school.
There is not thought to be an ongoing threat and the two entities immediately implemented the School Threat Assessment Team protocols established a few years ago. The student who allegedly made the threat is not currently in school, Superintendent Carrie Stephenson said.
The MCSO continues to investigate; no charges have been filed at this time.
Montrose County Undersheriff George Jackson told the Montrose Daily Press that one male student had remarked to another student that he had plans to shoot people at the school. According to Jackson, the youth couched it in terms of “if I was to do it, I would do it this way.” The student to whom he spoke subsequently reported the conversation.
The MCSD and MCSO are treating the threat as a credible one.
“We may never know, but we ‘overreacted’ because it’s safer to overreact than to underreact,” Jackson said.
The school district conducted interviews with parents and the family and reported to the MCSO, whose school resource officer at the Olathe schools also was involved in the response.
Jackson said law enforcement, the school and mental health resources worked in partnership to conduct the threat assessment.
“It has been addressed and any possible threat has been mitigated,” he said.
School district Executive Director of Operations James Pavlich spoke of the threat assessment team, established three years ago to respond to situations like the Olathe incident.
“We were able to catch this threat early and use the process as it is intended to stop acts of violence against our children. We have established a working culture of speaking up and working together to keep our schools safe,” Pavlich said in the news release.
“The Montrose County Sheriff’s Office takes all threats seriously,” MCSO Lt. Ty Cox said, also in the news release. “Public safety is our top priority — along with the Montrose County School District, the safety and security of students, staff and community is very important.
“We know an incident like this can be scary, but with the report, law enforcement was able to handle the issue before anything happened. We know it takes courage to stand up and do the right thing and I’m proud of those who alerted authorities.”
Operations are continuing as normal at the schools, with staff and law enforcement alert to safety risks. The MCSO’s school resource officer will be available at the Olathe schools, plus the public can expect to see an increased law enforcement presence on campus there.
Although no school district wants students to be in danger, the incident shows the MCSD School Assessment Team approach is effective, district spokesman Matt Jenkins said, also praising the student who stepped forward with the tip.
“This is unfortunately scary, but actually good in a way because it shows our processes are working,” Jenkins said.
“We need to give the child (who reported) a shout-out and to the child’s parents who raised that child right,” he said.
Jenkins further praised Olathe Principal Scot Brown for having good dialogue and relationships with the students and also touted Pavlich, who three years ago researched and selected the threat assessment model to implement.
“Dadgummit, it worked today,” Jenkins said of the threat assessment protocol. “ … We’re absolutely grateful to students who speak up, to mental health, law enforcement and school staff who take safety seriously.”
Students who learn of a threat or potential threats, or who suspect someone might self-harm, are encouraged to report the information to school staff or call 911. If they are not comfortable with that, they can use the anonymous Safe2Tell program at safe2tell.org; the Safe2Tell app, or at 1-877-542-7233. Jenkins said parents and community members who learn of a risk to schools or students can also make reports any of these ways.
The reported threat at Olathe comes on the heels of the nation’s most recent school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan on Nov. 30 that killed four and wounded seven.
The MCSD remains focused on student safety here, regardless of what happens or does not happen elsewhere.
“When you have a threat assessment process as solid as the one that has been implemented in Montrose County School District it doesn’t leave room to be more or less concerned because of other things happening,” Stephenson said. “It helps us target our focus on processes we need to have in place to keep kids safe. … it is one of the most impressive processes I have seen in my career.”
This story has been updated.
Katharhynn Heidelberg is the Montrose Daily Press assistant editor and senior writer. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.