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School, police respond to safety concerns

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Inaccurate texts and social media posts about a Kingfisher High School student disciplinary matter last week fueled a panic this week among some parents ready to keep their children at home.

But school administrators said Tuesday the freshman student whose alleged threats against other students triggered the social media firestorm won’t be returning to school and Kingfisher Police Department said its investigation turned up “no active threat to student safety.” 

It came to our attention after inappropriate comments last Thursday directed at a couple of students,’” KPS Superintendent Jason Sternberger said. “We started doing some digging and found that the student had made other threatening comments directed at that same circle of friends. We immediately contacted law enforcement and also handled the situation administratively to ensure the student would not be back at school." 

Those events took place last week, leaving administrators to believe that the situation was addressed, he said.

But before we knew it, all this information started swirling around this week that the student would be back at school this Thursday and had assault rifles and other weapons and was threatening to start hurting people," Sternberger said. "None of that was true."

The rumors were fueled by texts and Snapchats circulated among students that were then shared with parents and on social media.

Police Chief Dennis Baker said that – in addition to the report on the original threat – the police department is forwarding two additional reports to the Kingfisher County Assistant District Attorney’s Office based on a Snapchat and text message disseminated by two other students who later admitted their messages warning students to stay away from school this week had no basis in fact.

We’re letting the DA decide what, if any, further action will be taken, but students need to realize that sending those kind of messages can not only result in school sanctions but could also be a serious crime – a felony, in some cases,” Baker said.

KHS Principal Todd Overstreet said law enforcement was called in immediately last week when the first threat was made and have been working daily with school administrators to investigate subsequent reports as well. 

Sternberger, Overstreet, Asst. Principal Jay Wood and KHS Counselor Paula Leffingwell visited each high school classroom Wednesday morning to reassure students that the situation was handled and asking that all future concerns be directed to teachers or administrators instead of to the general public through social media.

Sternberger said he asks the same thing of parents.

All of us have an open door policy and take every concern seriously, but if you’re not comfortable talking to an administrator, please take your concern to a trusted teacher,” he said. 

Baker also urged parents not to make social media their first and last source of information.

"Please consider the source, stick to official Facebook pages instead of relying on individual posts, and if you have questions about what you're reading, call the school or our office," he said. 

Baker said a police officer would be at the school Thursday and Friday morning, but only for the purpose of providing a calming influence.

We have no reason to believe anything will happen,” Baker said. “We just want to provide a reassuring presence.”

Far from sweeping matters under the rug, Sternberger said he and other administrators have more than one motivation to make sure that every perceived threat to school safety is taken seriously and investigated.

Not only are we concerned about the safety of every student in all our buildings, but many of us have children who go to school here also and we all work here everyday,” he said. “Of course we’re going to do all we can to make sure Kingfisher schools are safe.”