A significant number of Summit High School students stayed home Thursday while armed law enforcement officers maintained a heavy presence on campus — the result of a “vague threat” to students discovered two days earlier and the school massacre in Florida the next day.
About one in four Summit students — about 400 — missed school, according to Julianne Repman, a spokeswoman for Bend-La Pine Schools. An average Thursday sees between 50 and 80 excused absences.
It started late Tuesday afternoon, when a student reported bathroom graffiti containing a threat and Thursday’s date. Summit administrators then notified Bend-La Pine Schools and Bend Police.
Neither the district nor Bend Police would comment on the exact nature of the threat, citing an ongoing investigation.
“Right now, we don’t have a lot of leads,” said Bend Police Lt. Clint Burleigh. “It was pretty anonymous.”
Teachers were briefed on the matter before the start of school Wednesday. Teachers discussed the threat with students during second period. Soon after, a letter was sent to parents.
“We absolutely will not tolerate copy cats of this situation,” reads the letter dated Feb. 14.
“Those responsible for this vandalism and anyone else found making any type of a threat to any of our schools will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Hours later, a gunman killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, the latest in a drumbeat of school shootings in the U.S.
The mood on campus Thursday was subdued, Repman said.
“The students that are here today, they’re cautious,” she said. “I’d also say there’s a sense that they too want to find out who did this.”
Joining those students on campus were a number of officers with Bend Police and the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office. Bend Police have one full-time school resource officer at Summit. One of the department’s other three resource offices was temporarily stationed there Thursday, along with two plainclothes detectives and a resource officer with the sheriff’s office. An unknown number of officers and deputies also stopped by throughout the day to “maintain a presence,” Burleigh said.
Burleigh participated in an impromptu basketball game with teachers and other officers, he said. Many students filmed the contest with their phones.
“I do think the Florida shooting has been on the minds of a lot of parents,” Burleigh said. “I’m a parent, too, and if I hear about a credible threat, I’m not going to send my kids to school that day.”
Officers with the police department and sheriff’s office are encouraged to perform paperwork at the campuses of local schools, eat their lunch, use the restroom and even just walk the halls, according to officials. The idea is to build trust, said Bend Police Chief Jim Porter.
“The last thing we want is for a kid’s first contact with a police officer to be a bad situation,” he said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org