Attendance at Hazen High School was down considerably and television media trucks appeared outside the school Thursday morning in response to a rumored gun threat.
“We anticipated it,” said Renton School District Spokesperson Randy Matheson, who was on campus this morning to defray parents’ concerns.
“We try to communicate with the parents first,” he said.
The rumor surfaced Wednesday — less than a week after a in addition to six school staff members.
In this instance, Matheson said a student thought she overheard someone in the hallway say they planned to bring a gun to school. She told her parents. Her parents called the school, and the district began investigating the claim.
The District spoke with several other students who either over heard the same thing, or heard the rumor from another student. The information also popped on Facebook, sparking further concerns, he said.
In the end, the District decided that the rumor wasn’t credible, and Principal John Kniseley sent this email to parents:
Hazen High staff are working with a few students who reported that they’ve heard rumors and/or conversations that there may be someone with a weapon at school tomorrow. Some students say they’ve overheard other students having the conversations in hallways; but, staff have not been able to speak to anyone with specific knowledge of the rumor or where it originated.
While the rumors are unsubstantiated, we’re taking them seriously, and we’ll continue investigating where the rumors started and if they are at all credible.
Tomorrow, we will have our school and district security officers visible and vigilant and we’ll have our School Resource Officer (a Renton Police Officer who is always assigned to the school) on campus before school begins.
We continue to work to keep students and staff safe at school; and, we’ve been very successful in that work. As always, we ask that parents assist by talking to children about reporting any rumor or threat immediately to a teacher or school administrator. This helps reduce rumors and subsequent anxiety that comes with those rumors. We’ll work to keep the identity of students who report the threats confidential: our focus will be to investigate every rumor and ensure it isn’t more than that.
Again, the rumors are unsubstantiated and therefore the credibility of those rumors are in question; but, as always, we’re taking them seriously and we’ll continue our work to keep Hazen High and all schools safe.
“Obviously there is a heightened awareness,” Matheson said, adding that the school district followed its procedures for handling any rumor.
No additional staff were at Hazen High School today, he said, because the district determined that it was “a rumor; not a threat.”
The Districts findings weren’t enough for some parents to send their children to school.
Attendance numbers were down considerably at Hazen today, Matheson said, adding, “We're uncertain if it is legitimate absences or students skipping (it's the last day before Winter Break).
The rumor and last week’s school shooting in Conn. influenced Aubrey Martinez’ decision to keep her daughter at home today
“I thought about it all night long,” she said. “I just kept thinking it's probably nothing...but given what happened last week, I'd rather be safe than sorry. If I did send her, knowing that there was a threat, and something did happen, I'd feel so much guilt that I even put her in harms way.”
The Renton Police Department emailed this statement to local media Thursday morning:
Renton Police have received a number of media inquiries about a possible threat situation at Hazen High School. Yesterday, we were contacted by school staff after a report that a student overheard an unidentified subject in a school hallway make a passing remark about bringing a gun to school. Neither school staff nor Renton Police School Resource Officers were able to substantiate the possible threat, nor to gain any further information about the identity of the subject making the remark. As a precautionary measure, Renton Police have added staffing today at Hazen High School. Anyone having any direct information about this incident is asked to call 911 to give such information to the Renton Police.