For the second time in less than a week, a student in Bend-La Pine Schools has been arrested for threatening a school shooting.
A school resource officer at La Pine High School, responding to a tip from a student at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, arrested a 15-year-old boy who reportedly made violent threats. The teenager is accused of threatening students and staff on three occasions over the past two months. The most recent threat occurred two days ago, involving the use of firearms, according to Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. William Bailey.
Bailey said the teenager made general threats, and not to any specific students or staff. Both Bend-La Pine and law enforcement officials say they are seeing more students feeling empowered to report possible threats, especially after the Feb. 14 deadly shooting in a Florida high school.
“There is always a lot of national attention when any of these tragic events occur in our schools,” Bailey said. “That national attention causes people to be more aware and bring things forward more often.”
The teenager arrested Wednesday is a student at La Pine High School, but was not identified.
He has been booked in Deschutes County Juvenile Justice Facility on three counts of first-degree disorderly conduct.
He did not have a firearm on him Wednesday or ever at the school, but he did have access to unsecured firearms at his home, according to Bailey.
The school resource officer, a sheriff’s office deputy, found and removed the student from class Wednesday morning as more deputies responded to the school. The deputies were investigating previous threats made by the student and not any current threats on Wednesday.
Deputies spent the morning interviewing potential witnesses and identified the suspect, according to the sheriff’s office.
On Feb. 22, Bend Police arrested a 16-year-old boy who was believed to be planning a shooting at Bend High School.
Zachariah James Mello Johnson, a student at Marshall High School, made statements on social media about wanting to shoot several unspecified students, according to police.
The arrest Wednesday in La Pine represents the fifth threat of violence against schools in Bend-La Pine Schools in the past 15 days and the second time a student was arrested.
In a message emailed to parents Wednesday, Bend-La Pine Schools Superintendent Shay Mikalson encouraged parents to talk with their children. A group of parents and other concerned citizens spoke during a Bend-La Pine School Board meeting Tuesday, calling for improved safety measures in the schools.
“We believe that we can continue to work together to provide safe schools for our children by continuing to support our ‘see something, say something’ dialogue,” Mikalson said in his Wednesday message.
Julianne Repman, a spokeswoman for Bend-La Pine Schools, pointed to a number of actions the school district has taken to address such threats. Specifically, Repman said the school district recently contracted with The Child Center, a nonprofit mental health organization in Eugene, to visit local schools. Plans are in the works to expand that partnership, Repman said.
In addition, Repman said the school buildings have all become more secure over the years with visitors and volunteers being funneled through one point of entry. A longer-term plan of securing lobbies is progressing as well, she said.
Overall, Repman credits students such as the one who tipped off the La Pine High School resource officer for speaking up about a possible threat.
“We are seeing a response to copycats,” Repman said. “What is happening is other students are saying that is not acceptable.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7820, email@example.com