Threats against schools a balancing act for administrators

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — A group based out of Ohio has been tracking the number of threats/incidents reported at schools across the country since the Parkland, Florida shooting.

The Educator's School Safety Network found before the mass shooting, the figure was about 10 a day. Now, the group said it's up to more than 70.

Both Raytown and Kansas City Public Schools dealt with the issue this week. Similarly, the Shawnee Mission School District faced a threat just last week. After investigating, officials determined the threat was actually directed at an East Coast school with the same initials as Shawnee Mission South.

Because of the volume of threats after the tragedy in Parkland, SMSD Emergency Services Executive Director John Douglass said it can be difficult to tell what's real and what's fake.

"You've got 50 of them coming in. The thing that scares me is 49 of them may be insincere or pranks, but the one that is real gets hidden by the cacophony of information," he explained.

Over the past couple years, Douglass said the district received about a dozen threats, but only three turned out to be credible. That means the perpetrator had not only the idea but also the plan and resources to carry out an attack.

While he could not go into specifics on two of the cases, the third happened in 2015 at Shawnee Mission West. A suspect threatened students through private messages on social media. He planned to use his grandfather's weapons for an attack. In that case and the two others, parents and students quickly reported the threats. 

"The way these things are solved is no great secret. They almost always tell somebody, and it's absolutely imperative that somebody tells us," Douglass said.

41 Action News also reached out to KCPS, Raytown, Blue Valley and Kansas City, Kansas school districts to find out if they track the number of threats made each school year. A spokeswoman for Raytown Public Schools said they do not. At the time of publication, the other districts had not responded. 

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