Kent School District disciplines elementary students for gun-report hoax

Kent School District officials will discipline the three students who made up and repeated a story that they had seen a man with a gun on the school grounds Sept. 30 at Carriage Crest Elementary in unincorporated Renton.

A couple of students at Carriage Crest Elementary in the Kent School District made up a report Sept. 30 of a man seen on school grounds carrying a gun.

A couple of students at Carriage Crest Elementary in the Kent School District made up a report Sept. 30 of a man seen on school grounds carrying a gun.

Kent School District officials will discipline the three students who made up and repeated a story that they had seen a man with a gun on the school grounds Sept. 30 at Carriage Crest Elementary in unincorporated Renton.

Dozens of King County Sheriff’s Office deputies responded to the school, which went into lockdown for about an hour until deputies determined that the report was a hoax. Carriage Crest is at 18235 140th Ave. S.E. The sheriff’s office sent its SWAT team as well as the Guardian One helicopter in response to the initial report.

“We have indeed determined that there was never a credible threat and that two young students were able to convince another (student) to earnestly make a report of what was actually purposely inaccurate information,” said Chris Loftis, school district spokesman in an email response to questions about the incident.

Loftis said the district would not reveal specifics about the students’ ages or suspensions because of privacy rights for the children and their families.

“While we cannot comment on specifics, it is our practice to construct age-appropriate corrective plans with the highest instructional value possible as our goal,” Loftis said.

The sheriff’s office decided not to pursue any charges against the students for false reporting.

“It’s a school issue,” said sheriff’s office spokesman John Urquhart in a phone interview. “We decided to leave it up to the school.”

According to state law, “A person is guilty of false reporting if with knowledge that the information reported, conveyed or circulated is false, he initiates or circulates a false report or warning of an alleged occurrence or impending occurrence of a fire, explosion, crime, catastrophe, or emergency knowing that such false report is likely to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or transportation facility, or to cause public inconvenience or alarm.”

The incident caused school district officials to come up with an appropriate discipline measure since no prepared guidelines existed for students reporting a hoax of someone carrying a gun on school grounds.

“While we do have prepared guidelines for most predictable or common situations, this was a very unusual occurrence and there is no specific prepared guideline,” Loftis said.

The sheriff’s office determined the report to be a hoax after deputies searched the school building room by room as well as searched the grounds and an adjacent neighborhood, Loftis said.

Sheriff’s office and school officials interviewed the students involved on the day of the incident as well as the following Monday.

“The students who fabricated the initial story eventually recanted their claims and provided the sequence of events that led to the lockdown,” Loftis said. “Throughout this process our staff was also speaking to parents and law enforcement investigators. Once the facts were known, our school staff developed the corrective action plan now in place.”

Loftis said the disciplinary measures and the incident should send several messages to students:

• “We care very deeply about each of you and your safety is something we take very seriously. If you see something or hear about something that frightens you or poses any danger to you, your classmates, or your school, tell an adult.”

• “Your actions always have consequences. This was a serious situation and both the district and local law enforcement responded quickly and with significant resources. Once the credibility of the initial claim came into doubt, again, significant investigatory work ensued and now significant consequences are coming into place.”

• “Telling the truth is always the right thing to do. When you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to tell people about it. The sooner the truth is known, the better and safer everyone will be. Remember, we care about you and want you to be happy and safe.”

Loftis praised the response of the sheriff’s office to the incident.

“They care about kids as much as anyone and with dangerous schoolhouse events in the news in the past few years their response was as appreciated as it was robust,” Loftis said. “They came to that campus prepared to face grave personal harm to protect our community’s children. That is the definition of heroism.”

Loftis said the district will use the incident as a teaching tool.

“We come to prepare them for successful, happy, healthy and prosperous lives and anything that distracts us from that effort must be and is thoughtfully addressed,” he said. “Our response to this has been and will continue to be implemented in a manner that has the best interests of each and every child involved, whether it is a child that said something that was not true, a child who innocently repeated that untruth, or a child made afraid by a falsely reported threat.”

District officials hope lessons are learned.

“When I am asked what is the ‘appropriate’ response to something like this, I simply answer – one where every child learns the most from it as possible,” Loftis said. “This situation has a lot of people upset but let’s remember we are working with young children, families that love them and a professional school staff that is working to be fair and effective through it all. Together, we make our system work.”

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