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Threat of school violence at Dunbar

On Oct. 18, arrangements have been made for an increased police presence on campus

During fourth block on Oct. 17, a note threatening violence at Dunbar was found in a girls’ bathroom stall. As pictures of the note began to circulate on social media, a student reported the note to administration where it was investigated immediately by principals and school resource officers.

Soon after the note was discovered, students began reporting the picture to the S.T.O.P. tip line provided by the Kentucky Center for School Safety. The tip line encourages students, parents or community members who know of an unsafe situation in school to anonymously pass on that information to school personnel by using a digital format.

Today’s event was very similar to a similar incident from Oct. 20, 2017, in which a rumor began circulating about a possible school shooting. At that time, Principal Rains was quoted, “This morning we are witnessing the power of social media and misinformation at Dunbar High School.”

On the heels of a false rumor at Beaumont Middle School, one of Dunbar’s feeder schools, this is the second threat in a week. Fayette County School officials said that the false rumor at Beaumont caused “undue worry among some families.”

An email sent to Beaumont parents and guardians indicated that the “completely false rumor” was being shared person to person as well as on social media.

According to the Kentucky Center for School Safety, weapons violations in Kentucky accounted for 5% of all reported law violations in public schools in 2016-2017. There is no 2017-18 annual report available on their website.

In response to the written threat discovered today, Principal Rains sent a message to families:

“Dear Paul Laurence Dunbar High School Families:

One of my top priorities as your principal is to make sure we have open lines of communication between home and school. Just as we hope you will let us know about situations at home that affect your teenagers, we want you to trust that we will inform you anytime something unusual happens at school.

Just before the end of the school day, one of our students reported finding graffiti threatening violence at our school on a flier in one of the stalls in a girls’ restroom. The student brought the flier to her teacher, who immediately alerted school leaders. Working with the police officers in our building, our administrative team is actively investigating the incident.

We take any and all reports of potential threats against our students, staff, and campus seriously and will continue our investigation this evening. If we have a resolution tonight, we will send a follow-up communication, but in the meantime, out of an abundance of caution, we have made arrangements for an increased police presence on campus tomorrow.

We are proud of the student who reported this matter to her teacher and pleased to share that we have also received tip line messages about the graffiti. These reports demonstrate that our students are serious about helping us keep Dunbar a safe place to learn and work by reporting concerns immediately to trusted adults.

Please help us to remind our youngsters that situations like this are extremely serious. While some may think this is a joke, it is important that our students understand that making threats against a school is a felony under state law. Adults face punishment of up to five years in prison. Penalties for juvenile offenders are more flexible on a case by case basis.

Any time there is a health or safety issue at school, we want you to hear the facts from us. Thank you for the privilege of working with your children and for your understanding that we are working diligently to provide a safe and welcoming learning environment on campus.

As you know from my previous communications, we will begin phasing in the implementation of stationary metal detectors on Monday, October 22, with full implementation on Monday, October 29. We’re excited to be the second high school in Fayette County to have this security enhancement in place under the district’s Comprehensive 10-Point Safety Plan.”

In the wake of highly publicized school shootings, no threat can be taken lightly, although non-profits such as the Educator’s School Safety Network found that as threats have increased, actual acts of violence are statistically low.

“You have to take every threat seriously, but at the same time, you have to be rational and investigate whether or not the threat is real.”

In May, a Dunbar student was charged with a felony for an event from March. At that time, an anonymous tip to a school safety tip line took police to the door of 18-year-old Timothy Felker, was charged with a felony. Police took a rifle and about 500 rounds of ammunition from his home according to court documents.

October 21-27 is Kentucky Safe Schools Week.

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