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Claims by Palin in memoir raise local questions

Officials: No record of threats on daughters Willow and Bristol

Posted: Sunday, December 20, 2009

Former Gov. Sarah Palin, who has had a rocky relationship with the state's capital city, says in her book there were some ugly threats made against her daughters while they were attending Juneau schools.

Those threats reportedly caused daughter Willow Palin to be removed from the Juneau School District.

Palin said it ended the "honeymoon" for her kids in their new role as children of the state's governor, though she admitted the honeymoon had already ended for her.

The alleged threats made against Palin's daughters are raising questions among officials who would likely have been made aware of them at the time, had they been made or had Palin taken them seriously.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, called the reports of the threat "horrifying."

"That's a horrible thing, I hope to God that didn't happen. If it happened, I hope it was reported and investigated thoroughly," she said.

While Kerttula and Palin have had strong political differences and fought over the capital move and other issues, Kerttula also worked with the Republican governor on oil and gas development and tax issues, as well as ethics reforms.

In "Going Rogue" Palin wrote:

"In that first year, I was alerted to threats against Willow by students at her Juneau school, one particularly disturbing. Someone posted a note on an Internet site threatening to gang-rape her at school. I never felt safe for her after that. Later, the same thing happened to Bristol."

Willow Palin attended Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, while Bristol Palin attended Juneau-Douglas High School.

Palin provided no details about where the Internet site was, how seriously she took the threats, how she knew it was posted by students, or what steps she'd taken to ensure her family's safety.

Former Juneau School District Superintendent Peggy Cowan was superintendent during the period in question and said she never heard of such concerns.

"That was never reported to my office," she said. "I am completely confident that I never heard that."

Cowan was contacted in Barrow, where she is now the superintendent at the North Slope Borough School District.

Had a report been made to Juneau schools, Cowan said she would have worked with the principals at the schools to determine how seriously the threats should be taken and how to ensure the safety of the children.

Juneau Police Chief Greg Browning similarly said his department has no record of ever being alerted to such threats.

His department's school resource officers are in Juneau schools daily, and would likely have been alerted to such threats, had they been made, he said.

The Alaska State Troopers provide a security detail for Palin, but trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said the first they heard about the allegation was from Palin's book.

"AST has no record of a report like that being made to our agency," Peters said. "Additionally, we have no way of determining if a report of that nature was made to another agency."

Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein in Anchorage said he wasn't representing Palin during the period in question, but he had heard about a threat later from her husband, Todd Palin.

"I remember Todd told me he took Willow out of school because of it," Van Flein said.

Van Flien said he did not know further details, such as where the Internet site was or if law enforcement had been contacted.

Despite the startling nature of the Palin's allegation, it has received little notice in the mass of coverage of "Going Rogue."

Alaska Dispatch writer Craig Medred was among those questioning the allegation, but called making such threats against anyone's children "unconscionable."

"If it really happened, it should have resulted in a criminal investigation," Medred wrote.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.



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