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Hazen Students, Parents On Edge Following Gun Rumor

Attendance was down considerably today.

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.

Linda Nelson December 21, 2012 at 03:33 PM
This is an unfortunate situation all the way around for sure. However, I sent my children to Hazen based upon information from the school, as well as the district, that additional staff would be in place at the school on Thursday. To hear, after the fact the school and district did NOT have additional staff and security in place - after being told they would - is extremely disheartening. If I cannot trust the school and district to provide "protection" for my child as they have promised while I entrust my children in their care, it makes me question every statement out of their mouths, every promise they have made and the overall security for my children in their care. I have heard from other parents they don't ever believe the false promises from the principal at Hazen, nor the district public relations officer (who, in my repeated experience, has a hard time telling the truth if it was printed on a prompt card in front of him), and this just adds further credence to their claims. Maybe all of the other times the school & officials have knowingly lied to or misled parents or put children in harms way should be made public too.
Kerri Dowd December 21, 2012 at 06:59 PM
OK. I have to say this. I am a teacher at Hazen, and there WERE additional people at Hazen yesterday. There may not have been extra "district" personnel, but there was an additional presence from the police department. We all met as a staff in the morning to address the issue, and most of the teachers kept classroom doors locked throughout the day and did everything we could to protect our precious students, your precious children. I am not sure what extra "district" personnel would have been able to do, but Hazen was safe and well-covered yesterday. The district and staff did provide extra protection for your children in many ways.
Jenny Manning December 21, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Thank you for the clarification and first-hand account, Kerri. It's tough when there are conflicting statements, which is why I included the emails from the Renton Police Department and Principal Kniseley in addition to the statements made by District spokesperson Randy Matheson. I wish I had been able to get the information that staff met in the morning to discuss the situation and that classroom doors remained locked throughout the day. I can only report what the District is willing to say. I'm glad everyone stayed safe on Thursday and hope you enjoy a happy and restful holiday break! Also - Patch always welcomes letters to the editor. If you or any of your fellow colleagues would like to address the issue in a letter, I'd be happy to print it. Letters may be emailed to jenny.manning@patch.com.
Jenny Manning December 21, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Yikes—What other times have you felt misled by the District?
Robert Sarzanini December 30, 2012 at 04:58 AM
Ms. Dowd is the one of the dedicated teachers of my high school aged daughter and others. If there were any danger to our children, she would have taken steps to either protect the kids or prevent any issues. I find it interesting and a bit disturbing that Ms. Manning took it upon herself to post this article and in effect, 2nd guess the dedication and protection that Ms. Dowd and rest of the teachers of Hazen give to their students on a daily basis.

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