There are not many things worse than hearing about a horrific tragedy where children and staff members are unmercifully gunned down at school by an armed intruder. It is heartbreaking to think about the tremendous amount of hurt and anguish school shootings have caused for far too many people in far too many places across the country, including a few examples right here in our home state of Wisconsin. When a threatening note was found at Menomonie High School on Wednesday, Nov. 6, many of the emotions and fears associated with school shootings became much too real for families in our community.
Now that a little time has passed, families in the School District of the Menomonie Area can rest assured that the threat at Menomonie High School was unfounded, and school officials, staff, and students did a great job responding to the situation in a very efficient and effective manner. Well-practiced procedures were immediately implemented, and local law enforcement agencies were quick to respond with emergency support services appropriate for the situation.
With the help of a recent building referendum and large grant awards from the Wisconsin Department of Justice, many recent improvements have been made in the SDMA to make our schools safer and more secure. Not only have physical school structures been improved, but the school district is now equipped with better surveillance systems, updated emergency management plans, and communication tools that can be used to identify and report concerning behaviors. All schools in the district practice drills for appropriately responding to threats of school violence, and there are many ongoing efforts to promote a positive, caring, and inclusive school environment for all students.
While several older movies and television shows have made light out of using a bomb threat to get out of a test or some other school activity, making a threat of school violence is nothing to joke about. With an increased frequency of school violence across the country, laws have been written to make potential consequences much more severe.
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In addition to almost certainly being expelled from school, anyone who has made a threat of school violence may be subject to some severe legal consequences. According to information recently shared by the Menomonie Police Department, someone found to have made a threat of school violence may face the charge of a felony terroristic threat punishable by a $25,000 fine and up to ten years in prison (Wis. Statute 947.019). Similarly, a bomb threat may also be classified as a felony, which could include a $20,000 fine and over three years in prison (Wis. Statute 947.015). Students seventeen and older are likely to be charged as an adult, while students 14-16 years old may be tried as either a juvenile or an adult.
With seven school buildings and one administrative service center, the School District of the Menomonie Area is home to nearly 4,000 students and staff members each day. While it is the mission of the school district to prepare ALL students to become lifelong learners, caring individuals, and responsible citizens, the safety and security of our students and staff is always our top priority.
Should school families or community stakeholders have any questions or concerns related to school security, I invite you to contact the administration at your child’s school, or visit me at the Administrative Service Center on Pine Avenue. More information about our schools can be found on the school district website (www.sdmaonline.com), and I regularly post school-related information on Twitter (www.twitter.com/sdmaonline).