By Starrla Cray, Associate Editor and
Ivan Raconteur, Editor
DASSEL, COKATO, MN About one week after a “vague threat” was discovered written on the wall of a Dassel-Cokato High School storage room, life is pretty much back to normal for students and staff.
School officials became aware of the message the evening of April 17, and contacted the Wright County Sheriff’s Office. The threat noted, “People will die 4/19/16,” and was accompanied by other graffiti, as well as the phrase, “People are sick.”
Captain Todd Hoffman of the Wright County Sheriff’s Office said the threat was not considered credible due to its location and generic nature.
“Most of the time, these things are written on places like bathroom stalls,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s more common than people would expect.”
Even if a threat doesn’t appear genuine, Hoffman said it is always taken seriously, and it is always investigated.
Two extra law enforcement officers were present at school Tuesday, and students were not allowed to access the middle/high school facility until after 7:15 a.m. In addition, all students had their belongings checked.
Superintendent Jeff Powers noted that the precautions had “little impact” on the day, except for a short delay as students entered the building.
More than 400 middle and high school students were absent Tuesday.
“Other than that, it was a normal day,” Hoffman said.
He added that some parents might wonder why the school wasn’t closed for the day. He responded that these types of threats need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. At times, shutting down the school may not be an appropriate response, as it could feed on the perpetrator’s desire to get a reaction.
The threat is currently being investigated for potential charges. Disciplinary action for threats of this nature is often handled through the parents and school, in the form of a suspension or related measure.
“Typically on something like this, if we find out who did it, it will be by word-of-mouth,” Hoffman said.
A comparable threat was reported at DC Schools five years ago. According to a June 6, 2011 article in the Enterprise Dispatch, the threat was written in a middle school bathroom in pencil, stating “There will be a shooting Monday last day of school.”
Similar precautions were taken for that threat, such as bag checking and additional law enforcement presence. The school day continued as scheduled, including various field trips.
Letter to parents
Letters were sent home to parents last Monday informing them of the threatening message found on a storage room wall at the middle school.
The full text of the letter sent by the district appears below:
April 18, 2016
Dear Parent/Guardian of a D/C High School or Middle School student:
Sunday evening we were made aware of a vague threat written on the wall of a high school storage room which said “People will die 4/19/16”. Students access the storage room to get supplies for teachers. The threat was very indirect and, in addition to other graffiti, was accompanied by another phrase, “People are sick.”
We immediately consulted with officers from the Wright County Sheriff’s Office to assess the credibility of the threat. While we don’t believe the threat is credible, we have not been able to determine who wrote it and will enact the following procedures tomorrow morning:
• No students will be allowed access to the ms/hs facility until after 7:15 a.m.
• All students will have belongings checked
• An increased law enforcement presence throughout the day
While we take situations like this seriously, threats like this one are, typically, only harmful, disruptive pranks that cause a lot of grief for everyone concerned. Perpetrators, if caught, will be dealt with both by authorities and the school district. We will continue to investigate this and a reward will be paid for any information leading to the conviction of any individuals who make this type of threat.
Please be assured that we expect our buildings to be safe and secure Tuesday, April 19.
Dean Jennissen, High School Principal
Alisa Johnson, Middle School Principal
Jeff Powers, Superintendent