By Lucille Shield, Dylan Notturno and Grady Short
Throughout December, MIHS students, staff and the surrounding Mercer Island community experienced a multitude of “jokes” taken too far. In a short period of time, students made violent threats against the high school on three separate occasions, causing a mix of emotions among the student body: fear, anxiety, frustration, naïveté and bravery.
During these crises, MIHS administration and staff worked diligently to uphold the emotional and physical security of its students. Unfortunately, because of the unpredictable circumstances and short window of time in which the threats took place, the school administration left many questions and concerns unanswered.
Many students still think the school administration overreacted to these threats. The district has a legal obligation to take all threats to the school seriously; in the event that someone makes a “credible threat” — a threat in which the perpetrators have intention to take action — inadequate action from the administration would prove possibly fatal.
Principal Vicki Puckett emphasizes that the safety of students is not threatened or compromised at this time. If you are still feeling unsafe or uncomfortable, please seek help at the Counseling or R&R offices.
The following details of the threats below are the extent of what we can publish at this time for legal reasons. We urge you not to seek out more information or spread rumors about the individuals’ identities or the personal details of their cases.
#1: Snapchat Threat
- On Dec. 4, Assistant Principal Nick Wold received a disturbing report of a Snapchat image.
- The Snapchat depicted a student making a threat to the safety of the school and instructed students to not come to school the following day.
- Although Principal Puckett cannot describe the image in detail, she told The MIHS Islander that there were some specifics in the picture that concerned administration.
- The day of, the student was pulled out of class and MIPD was informed of the situation.
- MIPD was informed of the situation and began an investigation.
- Although Puckett could not disclose details about this specific case, she did share that generally the school conducts a search of the student’s belongings and confiscates school-issued technological devices.
- The student involved was removed from the school through an “Emergency Expulsion.”
#2: Calculator Bomb Threat
- On Dec. 6 in a math class, students were borrowing school-owned TI calculators for a test.
- Later in the day, MIHS teacher Michelle Hayes discovered a message written on one of the calculators.
- The message was reported after its discovery; however, it was unclear as to when it was written.
- It was something roughly along the lines of “Finna shoot up the school on Thursday. Save yourself. F***.”
- The school is having a more challenging time figuring out the perpetrator of this threat than the other threats because of the medium of the message.
- The identity of the threat’s author has not been identified by police; however, a multitude of possible leads are being investigated.
#3: Note Bomb Threat
- On Dec. 14, right before school ended, MIHS teacher Kit McCormick discovered an anonymously written note on the floor of her classroom, bearing a message akin to “I’m going to bomb this f***ing school.”
- At 2:58 McCormick called the Front Office and requested that an administrator come to her classroom.
- An associate principal alerted Principal Puckett of the matter and the police were notified.
- Puckett and District Superintendent Donna Colosky decided to allow other students to leave the building as normal, “with 120 seconds left until school ended.” All of the students in McCormick’s classroom were evacuated and sequestered until police released them.
- Just after 3 p.m., over the intercom, Puckett instructed all faculty and staff to leave the building immediately, and she added that all after-school activities were to be cancelled.
- The police arrived with a bomb squad, and all of the students in McCormick’s class were evacuated to the District Office, where they were all questioned and searched.
- The MIPD swept classrooms for remaining students or staff members, and all students waiting at the front entrance were ushered outside.
- Police investigated and determined this threat to be not credible.
- The students involved were removed from the school through an “Emergency Expulsion.”
The school district is still determining consequences and conditions for the students who made the threats. It is confirmed that all of the students affiliated with the threats are currently out of school and have been charged with Class B felonies. Puckett is unable to share details regarding these students. However, she shared the procedures that the administration would use in similar situations.
During each of their Emergency “Expulsions,” MIHS administration reviewed the threats the students were involved in and their records, and determined some possible courses of action:
The maximum suspension a student can receive for exceptional misbehavior is a long-term suspension, which would range from 10 to 90 days. During this time, there are multiple hearings at the school-level, district-level and board-level if necessary. These meetings allow the student(s) and their family to appeal to the disciplinary charges against them. Once a verdict regarding their punishment is reached, the student will return once their long-term suspension expires and they have met all other requirements.
Because Washington state recently removed expulsions as a disciplinary option for public schools, students who are on long-term suspensions must be given access to an education. These students are given all materials and resources needed to complete assignments for their classes. If the student has an exam, a time is scheduled after hours for them to come into the building. Once the suspension ends and the individual returns to school, they are subject to increased security measures, which may include searches and check-ins with security and counseling staff.
All procedures used in such cases are detailed in the Student Handbook, as well as in the “Administrative and Board Policies” subsection on the district website. A few inaccuracies may be present in those documents because of the recent changes in Washington state law regarding expulsions. The district will be reviewing all policies related to student disruptions and making adjustments to align with new laws around suspensions and due process.
Various updates were sent out to the Mercer Island community during the time of these events. To view them, please click on this link:
The information shared in this article comes from a variety of sources, including Principal Puckett.
This article was written by Staff Writer Dylan Notturno, Front Editor Lucille Shield, and Co-Editor in Chief Grady Short.