Friday afternoon a sixth grade student at Gunter Middle School was detained at her home for writing a threat directed at other students in the class.
Gunter Independent School District Superintendent Jill Siler said concerned students took the note containing the threat out of the trash and gave it to their teacher, who brought it to the principal. Siler said she contacted the Gunter chief of police, who responded immediately.
“The threat was of the nature where this was an immediate phone call to the police,” Siler said. “The police came and investigated and had the student in custody in a short time.”
Gunter Chief of Police Shawn Johnson explained dealing with juveniles is different than adults.
“We can’t arrest a juvenile, we have to get permission from the juvenile detention center,” Johnson said. “She was detained at her home and we contacted the detention center. She was then released back to her parents with the exception that they had to bring her before the detention center.”
Johnson said by the time the police reached the school, students had already left for the day. Police began the investigation at the school and then proceeded to the student’s home.
Johnson said once the police report is complete, it will be submitted to the juvenile detention center for review.
Siler said Gunter ISD staff called the families of the students named in the threat, as well as families of the other students that had been in the class at the time. An email was then sent out to the families of Gunter ISD families Friday evening notifying them of the incident and the manner in which it had been handled.
Siler credits the students for the school’s quick response to the incident.
“We teach our students to ‘See something, say something,’” Siler said. “The response was incredible.”
In the wake of the incident, Siler said Gunter ISD is continuing to speak to students about the importance of taking threats seriously and speaking up. Siler said Gunter Middle Principal Kim Patterson Patterson met with every class to review safety information.
“We wanted to communicate with our students to be careful with what we say,” Siler said. “She (Patterson) also discussed the seriousness of making threats. What we shared is that anything that threatens a life is treated by the Texas Education Code as a terroristic threat, which can be a third degree felony. If you are 10 to 16, you can be arrested.”
Siler said she was not speaking to this specific event possibly being a third degree felony but wanted students to understand what could happen.
“For the school, any threat of that nature results anywhere from mandatory disciplinary placement to expulsion,” Siler said.
The Gunter ISD superintendent said she could not discuss the school’s disciplinary actions for this specific incident. All schools within Gunter ISD will be undergoing talks about these kinds of incidents over the next few weeks.
“It’s really important to discuss lockdowns and threats,” Siler said. “We also made clear that school is a no joke zone, just like the airport. Kids are very quick to banter back and forth with one another. But they can be an A honor roll student, and it’s still an automatic call to the police, who will be aggressive in their investigation when it comes to a threat.”