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School Threat

Rain falls in an empty parking lot Wednesday outside of North Bend Middle School. Officials canceled classes at the school and adjacent high school after a student found threatening graffiti scrawled in a bathroom at the middle school Tuesday. A 12-year-old student confessed to the leaving the message while being interviewed by police.

NORTH BEND — In the days following North Bend’s school shooting threat, additional police could be seen on campuses once classes resumed.

“It’s been busy since returning to the normal schedule,” said Darrell Johnson, principal at North Bend Middle School where the threat was made. “We have a lot of concerns from parents and kids have questions. Not only that but other issues below the surface have come up on kids who had their own personal safety issues, so we’re addressing those.”

The school psychologist and counselor have been on campus to help these students.

The threat was discovered on Tuesday morning by students who reported it to a substitute teacher. The graffiti read “shooting up the school tomorrow . . . BE READY!!” in a stall inside the sixth grade girls’ bathroom. The threat spurred an intense investigation from the North Bend Police Department, which led to the entire district shutting down and canceling classes on Wednesday.

The student was identified on Wednesday by police, and now she faces civil charges.

“There is a civil process, which has been referred to the prosecutor’s office,” Johnson said. “As far as the school goes for discipline, I can’t disclose that. I have a proposal and will give that to the superintendent to decide.”

Johnson recounted what happened from the school’s perspective, explaining why it took so long before NBPD was notified.

“When the report first came in, our assistant principal investigated with videos of footage from the hallway and handwriting analysis starting at 9 a.m.,” he said. “He identified the person he fully believed was responsible, who later made the confession.

“These are new days where, unless there’s absolute certainty that the threat has been resolved, we must continue the investigation. The administration has grown here. This was a transitional event from the old days when someone would write something like this and we’d investigate, let folks know it occurred and deal with it.”

Regardless, he added that now even if they think they have the right person, the police need to conduct their own investigation.

“Ultimately they are responsible and it’s their job to keep the community safe,” he said. “We need to allow them to do their job. That was a learning experience for us.”

In this case, even though the school administration believed they had an answer, Johnson conceded that they need to get a hold of NBPD and allow them to do their investigative process.

“If we’re wrong, the price is too high,” he said. “We have to immediately make the referral, not say ‘this is who we found.’”

Since school returned to its normal schedule, Superintendent Bill Yester visited the middle school to make an announcement to the student body that what happened is not acceptable. Though they are worried about copycat threats, similar to what the Coos Bay and Coquille school districts saw on Wednesday, Johnson said they have made steps to ensure heightened observation.

“Between each period, we check to see if anything has been written in the bathrooms so we have a clear timeline of when it occurred,” he said.

When asked why he believes students are doing this, Johnson pointed to school shootings being talked about in the press and also at school.

“We talk about it more because we have to be prepared,” he said. “Just recently we had an advisory lesson where we address reporting and that put it on to folks’ attention, so when kids are seeking extreme attention or to create drama, this is something they know will create drama.”

Coincidentally, the same day that the North Bend School District found the graffiti threat in the girls' bathroom, so did the Roseburg School District in one of their high school girls' bathrooms.

“The person was found within an hour and a half after finding the writing,” said Gerry Washburn, Roseburg School District superintendent in an earlier interview with The World. “It was reported around 11 a.m. on Tuesday and unfortunately it’s becoming all too common that we’re getting these things.

“We’ve had five threats in the high school and middle school just this year.”

Because the district has seen this happen so often, there are measures in place to help teachers and administration act quickly to work with law enforcement. In this case on Tuesday, the Roseburg Police Department arrested the student. Police Chief Jim Burge emailed The World that the student is being charged with disorderly conduct 1 and criminal mischief 2.

Of the threats that the Roseburg School District has seen, most have been kids lashing out or trying to get attention.

“We’ve not had a kid to date that has been identified as a credible threat, so it’s just something that kids are doing right now,” he said. “We’re trying to educate them on the serious consequences involved with doing it. We’re getting better and better with responding and investigating it, as I’m sure is true across the state.

“It’s the world we live in now.”

Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.

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