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Superintendent's Address Re: Threats to Schools

November 18, 2022

November 18, 2022

 

Dear Parkland Families and Staff,

In light of recent threats that have occurred in our area, including the threats at LCTI and Allentown School District this past week, and various threat tips that Parkland Schools have had to investigate this school year, I felt it was important to communicate with you this afternoon. 

First, I want to say that the uptick in threats all over the country is exhausting resources at schools and police departments, as well as raising the overall anxiety level of parents, students, staff and just about everyone in the country.  This is not unique to just Parkland.

When we receive a threat tip via Safe2Say, the statewide anonymous tip line, we take every one seriously.  The tips are triaged at the state level and if anything is determined to be a threat towards another person or school, Parkland administrators and police are notified immediately, no matter what time it is, day or night.   A very detailed and exhaustive investigation begins.  Police software can usually pinpoint where a social media post emanated from and those who report tips are sometimes questioned for further details.  This sets off a chain of events that typically lead to multiple interviews and the gathering of evidence. We do this while we are running against the clock, sometimes overnight, in an effort to be able to open school the following day.  Any threat made to the school community, whether it be made in person, on social media, a posted picture, video, audio file, etc., and that involves a student(s) results in discipline and could lead to expulsion from school.  Students may also be charged with making terroristic threats or false alarms, felony crimes that come with serious legal consequences.  I am sharing this with you because we have witnessed what happens when students participate in posting inappropriate content on social media.  The devastating consequences that ensue are heartbreaking - in so many ways.  No one is winning - it is just sad for every party involved.  It has to be this way - we can not tolerate any threat to our utmost priority of maintaining a safe and secure environment.  

So, I am writing to you today with a plea.  Please talk to your children and reinforce what we are telling them in school:

  • Any threat to another human being or the school will not be tolerated.  

  • It is a crime to make a threat, even in jest, and it has serious consequences that could include expulsion and criminal charges.

  • THINK BEFORE YOU POST:  If you think you are sharing something funny with your friends on social media, others can see it or it is often shared, and it may have serious, life-altering consequences. 

Even if you think your child would never post a threat on social media, I encourage you to have an open and honest conversation about it because teens can make impulsive decisions.  We all need to be in this together to keep our schools safe, and your help in reinforcing what is appropriate and not appropriate is important. 

Here are some additional resources that may aid you in your discussions with your children:

Additionally, please note that we are continuing to utilize education programs at our schools to help guide students to make good decisions:

  • Class Chats at the middle schools discuss this topic and include open dialogue about the risks involved in posting content on social media

  • Chats at the high school have involved the principals visiting classrooms to discuss the risks involved in posting content on social media

  • November 29 - a large group assembly is scheduled at both middle schools with JC Pohl, who will discuss the dangers of social media and offer tips on how to navigate the digital world. JC will also help educate students on how to communicate effectively with their parents and families. 

  • Announcements/videos from the Principal at Parkland High School occur that address this serious topic

  • The Character Counts Program at Parkland High School regularly infuses character lessons across the entire building that are aimed at building a positive culture.

At any time, know that you or your children can reach out to your building Principals, counselors, and/or teachers with concerns - in other words, if you see something, say something. If you see or hear a threat, call 911 if there is any possibility of immediate risk to someone or use the Safe2Say anonymous tip hotline.  I am thankful to work at Parkland where parents and students feel safe and comfortable reporting tips to the hotline because those who report things are looking out for the entire community and are doing the right thing. Early intervention can prevent a tragedy.  We will continue to do our part and investigate every tip and take every situation seriously.

Sincerely,

Dr. Mark Madson
Superintendent of Schools