Archive for Thursday, May 3, 2001

Boy charged with making school threat

May 3, 2001

A Basehor-Linwood High School student has been charged in Leavenworth County District Court with making a criminal threat stemming from a message written on a school bathroom stall last month.

The student has entered a plea of not guilty to the charge and will remain under his parent's supervision until trial or a plea agreement has been made, prosecutors said.

The student has been suspended from school and according to district officials, further disciplinary action could be taken.

The message stated that violence would take place at Basehor-Linwood High School on the anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School, Friday, April 20.

The message was discovered by a student at the high school and was reported to the administration. After the message was reported, the high school immediately reported the incident to the Basehor Police Department, Basehor-Linwood High School Principal Bob Hatfield said.

The identity of the student was revealed to the administration through the BLHS crime tips program.

Upon investigation into the incident, the police department and the high school determined the message to be an attempt by the student to get a day out of school, Hatfield said.

The purpose of the crime tips program is for students to have an opportunity to share information with faculty members regarding vandalism, theft or other related problems.

After speaking with the tipsters, Hatfield said he got the impression that they believed the message was more of a prank and that they didn't expect any violence at the school.

" I don't think they thought there was actually going to be violence, but I think they knew the message was wrong and that's why they came forward," Hatfield said.

Following the investigation, the student was arrested and taken to the Leavenworth County Juvenile Detention Center. The student was held over the weekend and released to his parents' custody the following Monday.

Although determined to be a prank, the message was not taken lightly by law enforcement or school officials. High school officials requested additional security for the day, and two Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department officers were present at the high school on Friday.

There was also a K-9 unit brought to the school that morning to search for any drug paraphernalia or related material. The K-9 unit search did not turn up anything illegal, Hatfield said.

"We felt like we took every step that was available to us to make sure the kids were safe," Hatfield said. "For this particular case, I didn't think it was necessary to call off school.

"I would never want to put our students in any danger and that's my bottom line. If I ever thought for a moment that our students were in any undo danger, I would take whatever steps we needed to prevent a problem," Hatfield added

This isn't the first year that precautions by high school officials have been taken to ensure the safety of the students on the anniversary of the Columbine tragedy.

There was also additional security present at Basehor-Linwood last year, Vice Principal Joe Keeler said.

According to Hatfield, schools across the country have beefed up security on the anniversary of Columbine. Hatfield said he hopes the morbid fascination of the day will fade in time and that school officials won't have to take those extra precautions in the future.

"It is a sad commentary when you think about kids that might make a threat to get out of school when people have died and been injured in the cases that have happened before," Hatfield said. "It is using something where people have died to create fear and that's why we took it as serious as we did. It has to involve punishment."

Bill Winzenburg, Leavenworth County Victim Witness Coordinator, said the student in this case could avoid a trial by going through a diversion screening. The student would have to apply for the diversion and comply with the terms of that diversion, Winzenburg said.

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