School's out for spring break this week, and some parents couldn't be more relieved.
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Several students were threatened with violence last week in two separate incidents that led to a police investigation at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School.
Three boys were sent to the Johnson Youth Center after one of the incidents.
Dawn Tucker's daughter began her break a few days early, after the girl's name was written with those of eight classmates on a bathroom stall in a note threatening gun violence, police said.
Tucker said she was keeping her daughter out of school until the situation was cleared up.
"In this day in age you can't be sure. It could have been a measly threat, but you just don't know. You don't need a another Columbine," she said of the infamous 1999 school shooting in Colorado.
The Juneau School Board and school district are continuing to work on ways to ensure students and staff are safe on school grounds, Superintendent Peggy Cowan said.
"Safety obviously is our first priority," she said. "Students can't learn if they aren't in a safe environment."
An updated emergency plan went into effect this school year, and the board is finalizing its policy on threats and bullying, in accordance with a new state law, Cowan said.
The board will decide on the bullying policy at its next regular meeting April 17.
"It defines bullying then it also provides age appropriate anti-bullying programs for students," Cowan said.
The policy also has provisions requiring that students, volunteers and staff members report any bullying or hazing going at school.
"Reporting is something that is really critical in any of these kinds of instances," Cowan said. "Bullying situations are often overlooked for way too long, and the students often don't report them."
According to the policy, "Bullying can be a written, oral or physical act to threaten, hurt, intimidate, humiliate, harass, or frighten a person," Cowan said.
The proposed policy also has a provision that prohibits retaliation for reporting such instances, she said.
"Kids should be reminded to report to adults anything that is either bullying or threatening in any way so we can make sure the schools are safe and so they can feel comfortable in school."
Authorities and educators need to stay alert, even though serious violence - or even threats such as last week's - are rare in Juneau schools, said police Capt. Jerry Nankervis.
"There's a heightened sense of security that is going on now and the threats aren't necessarily shrugged off like in the past," he said.
The three students were referred to the juvenile authority because of a threat on Tuesday, Nankervis said. The second incident Wednesday involved the nine students and the gun threat, police said.
Police have suspended that investigation because of "a lack of further investigative leads," he said.
"If we get further investigative leads or a suspect is identified then we will open it back up and pursue it," Nankervis said.
Tucker said she hopes the school district and police can find the perpetrators before students return from spring break.
"I would like some resolve, for one," she said. "Obviously these kids are striking out for some sort of attention."
Until there is resolve, spring break could continue for Tucker's daughter.
"My child will not return until those kids are caught and charged and there is discipline intact," she said.
Police have been in close contact with school officials regarding last week's threats, and officers were on campus Wednesday, Nankervis said. Anyone with information about the threats is asked to forward the information to police at 586-0600, he said.
Tucker said parents should rally to make sure such incidents don't continue.
"As a community, that kind of stuff doesn't need to start happening now," she said. "We can't allow it to happen."
Eric Morrison can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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