Libby schools revisiting communication protocol following threat

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For decades, schools across the nation have been receiving threats similar to what we recently found at Libby Middle/High School. Such threats have been created by students for a variety of reasons: someone thought it would be funny, or wanted a day off, or was mad at a teacher, etc. Often the students do not take into account the consequences of their actions.

Such incidents are reviewed and analyzed to determine validity before additional measures are taken. These decisions are not made lightly by school districts or law enforcement.

In our world today, social media brings to the table a new element that schools now have to consider when making decisions for these types of situations. Recently, parents received, via social media, partial information regarding a threat made at the high school. Understandably, this information was unsettling and would have been better received if it were delivered by Libby Public Schools. As one parent stated, “since we weren’t given any information, we were left to fill in the blanks.” For that, we are sorry and have made changes in the way we will communicate with our parents in the future.

Going forward, we hope you can trust that we always have your students’ safety in mind when we make decisions. We would never intentionally put anyone at risk. Our first priority is providing a safe learning environment for our students and staff. Decisions are made based on the factual information we have, and are never taken lightly. In the future, we promise to provide you with factual information to help you understand any situation we may be dealing with in a timely manner.

This experience has brought the school district, the Libby Police Department and the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office together to create a “threat assessment team” to handle any situations that might arise in the future. Though we were very confident in the district’s emergency procedures already in place, we know that it will be a never-ending training for our staff. We are pleased to say that we started our “active shooter” training last spring with the high school staff and our elementary staff completed that same training recently. Now that everyone is familiar with our “Run, Lock, Fight” procedures it will be added to our emergency policies and students will be trained over the next few weeks. We are also reviewing internal procedures that will create solid routines inside the buildings and throughout the district.

One of the areas that we need to address is our communication with the public in regards to security and safety. We have to do this in a way that protects the privacy rights of our students while weighing the public’s need to know. In an age of communication, Libby Public Schools need to find relevant ways to communicate with all stakeholders. We will have a meeting to discuss ways to best communicate with families on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at 5:30 p.m. in the K.W. Maki Theatre. We will also review our district safety procedures and plans for the future.

Craig Barringer is Libby School District superintendent.

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