Nerves were frayed among parents and students, while many in the community felt just as frazzled.
By the end of the week, there were 11 threats, including to schools in Kennewick, Pasco, Richland, Grandview, Prosser and Sunnyside. It reached a crescendo when Benton County deputies responded to a rumor of a gun at Ki-Be High School.
The swirl of activity has many people asking what is going on.
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Kennewick police Sgt. Aaron Clem can’t say for certain if there are more threats than normal, or if people are paying more attention, especially following the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
The bevy of attention focusing on the shooting has made people more vigilant. While that may make for some nerve-wracking moments, it boils down to better safe than sorry.
“We don’t know if there is a threat when someone doesn’t report it,” Clem said. “We investigate every one of them.”
It’s not just here
Since the Florida shooting, the Educator’s School Safety Network reports that nationally there have been on average 71 threats and incidents reported each day. Those 638 reports equal nearly two-thirds the number of threats the organization found from September to December.
Reports have occurred in every state and include threats to bomb, shoot or otherwise harm students.
In many cases it’s a combination of different elements that leads to a spike in threats, said Safety Network spokesman Amanda Klinger.
Along with the increased vigilance, she said there is also a contagion effect, so that even when a threat is barely mentioned, a student may still see the chaos and confusion it creates.
“And to (a teen’s) not-fully-formed brain, that chaos seems like fun,” she said.
Since Parkland, the organization reports six plots have been uncovered, 24 guns found were found and one stabbing occurred nationwide.
The spike after the Parkland shooting is not the only factor. The number of threats in Washington schools for the first half of the year is nearly double what it was last year, according to the network.
“It is highly unlikely that all violent incidents and threats in schools have been included in the data set,” the report concluded.
Should you be worried?
Parents and students should keep in mind that threats rarely turn into action, Klinger said.
When the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives last looked at explosions in school, it found only 1 percent had threats associated with them.
Signs do exist, though. A report put together by the U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Department of Education following the Columbine shooting in 1999 found many school shooters had a history of mental health issues. They tend to be outcasts, and they tend to have a plan.
Klinger said there are warning signs, though they vary depending on the student. One of the two shooters in the 1998 shooting in Jonesboro, Ark., stomped on a fish during a class trip.
Another in a 2013 shooting in Centennial, Colo., showed classmates — including his intended target — the gun he planned to use.
These are reasons why people should share their concerns with administrators, teachers and police, Clem said.
Police departments and schools work closely when there is a potential threat, with officers often calling schools to alert them about crimes happening around the schools.
The state provides information and sample policies to school districts detailing how they should handle firearms, knives and other weapons on school grounds.
Schools are safer now than they were decades ago, said Mike Donlin, program supervisor for the state superintendent’s School Safety Center. They are better prepared for emergencies ranging from natural disasters to school shootings.
Each of the Tri-City school districts has detailed safety plans in place and runs regular drills. Schools also no longer allow people to just walk into the school without first going through the office.
“Student and school safety is our priority at the Kennewick Police Department,” Clem said.
The Kennewick officer recommends parents be involved in their children’s lives and pay attention to their social media accounts.
“I don’t think parents need to be any more worried than normal,” he said. “They just need to be aware of what is happening.”