Summit School District Superintendent ‘disagrees’ with media reports on gun threat
Superintendent Kerry Buhler sent out a letter to Summit Middle School parents on Friday stating that the district disagrees “with the media portrayal” of a student’s recent threats of gun violence. The letter, however, does not explain specifically what the district is contesting in the media reports on the incident.
Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons confirmed to the Daily on Thursday that an eighth grader at the school had threatened gun violence toward multiple classmates. However, Buhler told the Daily that the initial tip from an anonymous source did not specify the type of threat and did not mention guns at all. Only through further investigation did the sheriff’s office learn about the gun-related nature of the threat, she said.
Buhler said she believed the initial tip was the only information the district was able to share with the public, according to school policy. She could not immediately produce, on Friday evening, the policy that stipulates that course of action.
The fact that the school district did not mention gun violence in its initial communications sparked anger among a handful of middle school parents, who called district officials Friday to complain after seeing accounts of the threat in the Summit Daily News and other media outlets. Buhler said the parents wrongly believed that the district was withholding important information.
“We understand the details in the media reports cause families to feel the school is not providing you with the facts,” Buhler said in Friday’s statement to parents. “Nothing in the school’s investigation to this point indicates that the averted threat was anything other than a general threat of violence. We await the findings of the criminal investigation.”
Buhler said that the district has been working closely with the sheriff’s office, but does not feel it can share information from the criminal investigation with the public.
“It wasn’t our information to share, it was the sheriff’s,” Buhler said of the gun violence threats. “Parents were angry that the district didn’t tell the whole story.”
FitzSimons talked with the Daily between 2 and 3 p.m. on Thursday, shortly after statements on the alleged threat were issued from his office and the school district. Neither statements mentioned gun violence, something the sheriff later confirmed to the Daily and other media outlets.
The sheriff’s office received an anonymous tip at 9:15 p.m. on Tuesday, March 28, that a middle school student had made threats of violence. Deputies quickly arrived at the suspect’s residence and began an investigation that indicated an eighth grader had threatened to shoot multiple students. A laptop computer from the student’s home was collected as evidence.
Although the student is not in law enforcement custody, he is not currently a danger to the community, FitzSimons said.
“We will continue to keep the Summit Middle School community updated as we have information we are able to share,” Buhler wrote in her letter to parents on Friday. “Our goal is to provide factual information to families first. There continues to be no security concern at SMS and the students, staff and school are safe. Please know that school staff and district officials are available to speak or meet with parents if that will help address your concerns.”
Anyone with information and tips about this incident is asked to contact Detective Scott Wagner at 970-423-8913. Parents and community members are encouraged to report concerns directly to district leaders, law enforcement or 9-1-1, or to Safe2Tell at 1-877-542-SAFE (1-877-542-7233), www.Safe2Tell.org.
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