Student arrested for writing threatening letter
The city of Blaine made headlines across the nation and worldwide this week as a 15-year-old Blaine high school student was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of distributing a note threatening to kill 12 other students and Dan Newell, the school principal.
On October 20, high school officials were given the note by a parent, which their high school student had brought home after finding it on the floor at school. After receiving the note, school officials notified Blaine police department.
Blaine police chief Mike Haslip said the police department met with high school administrators, reviewed the note, and began interviewing the students named and working with the school to get the students’ parents notified. Officers also patrolled the school with security dogs.
Haslip said the note was later sent to Washington state patrol’s forensic crime lab in Seattle where it was examined for trace evidence as well as handwriting. Crime lab scientists confirmed a match between a suspect’s handwriting and the writing on the note but officers continue to investigate the incident.
“It appears that one or two other students may have known who authored the note and may have helped with the crime,” Haslip said.
The juvenile has been booked into Whatcom County juvenile detention on multiple charges related to the threats. Asked about rumors that the suspect was one of names on the list, Haslip said he would not disclose that information.
Mary Lynne Derrington superintendent of Blaine schools said immediately after school officials found the note, they attempted to notify all of the parents of the students listed and advised them not to let their children attend school the next day. Parents who had children who were not listed in the note were advised to make a personal decision to let their children attend classes that day, but not all parents were notified.
At a Blaine school board meeting last Monday, approximately five parents, including Veronica Muir, mother of two second-grade students in Blaine, said they would have liked some notification about the incident before sending their children to school the next day.
“I appreciate the precautions the primary school did take,” Muir said. “However, I do feel that more could have been done to alert parents to what was happening. I think parents have the right to know when police are combing the campus, ammunition-sniffing dogs are brought onto campus and lockdown conditions are being implemented.”
Derrington said because the note targeted a specific day and specific students, immediate action had to be taken to notify those particular students.
“The first priority was
to notify those students and their families who were
in the most potential harms way,” she said. “Timing
did not permit a letter to be sent home on Thursday.”
Blaine police chief Mike Haslip agreed.
“Every time we have an incident like this we learn something different that we could do better next time,” he said. “But our primary and immediate focus was finding and identifying those students that were named. Unfortunately, the end of the day came before we could notify all parents.”
Dave Chapman, a father of two children in Blaine schools, asked the board if a phone tree, an automated calling system or some other warning system could be implemented in the future.
Derrington said while the board does not write the district’s critical incident plans, they will review them with law enforcement agencies this fall. At that point, she said they will discuss the possibility of an automated dialing service or web site where parents can check for updates.
“Some of those ideas might be excellent,” she said. “Communication is extremely important and how we can always communicate better is something we’re always interested in.”
In the mean time, Haslip, said he feels confident about the school’s safety.
“If my kids were going to school there right now, I would have no hesitation to letting them go there tomorrow,” he said. “I am confident they would be safe there tomorrow as any other day of the year.”