With school violence and how to prevent it at the forefront of many people’s thoughts in the wake of the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida, the Park Hill School District is dealing with its own potential threats.
On Friday, Feb. 23, the district issued a safety message regarding a threat at Park Hill High School. A student posted an unspecified threat on social media, which was spotted and reported to authorities. The Kansas City Police Department and Platte County Sheriff’s Office both had officers at the school that day to increase the security presence. Officers worked with the unnamed student and that student’s family. The student did not attend school that day, and district authorities cannot say if the student has returned to classes since.
Park Hill High School has a school resource officer already assigned to the building.
This was the district’s second brush with potential danger in the last two weeks. At around 9:15 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, police were called to apprehend someone near school facilities with a knife.
Park Hill High School briefly went on hold and Renner Elementary School was locked down for about 10 minutes after district officials received the report of a suspicious party in the area.
Superintendent Dr. Jeanette Cowherd issued a statement to parents following the Florida shooting and Feb. 15 threat.
“We realize that these tragedies can and do happen in places just like Park Hill all the time,” Cowherd said. “While it is frightening to realize that we can never guarantee complete safety, we take our responsibility very seriously to do everything we can to keep our students and staff safe.”
Part of the district’s facility plans formulated over the last few years have been increased security safeguards and the district is currently working on better addressing student mental health.
At the Thursday, Jan. 25 board of education meeting, district officials presented an update on the mental health program. The district is working with staff to help de-stigmatize mental illness and make adults more approachable to students who may be struggling. By the end of March, the district hopes to have suicide awareness and prevention plans in place in all district buildings.
The district is also looking into ways to further engage and educate parents, and has formed a new substance abuse prevention coalition in the Northland in cooperation with other districts and entities. In the future, additional funding and staff to further address mental health concerns will be required.
Staff training to help students had started in August and will throughout the school year. Consultants from Tri-County Mental Health Services and other organizations, including law enforcement, are working to create crisis teams in each building.