Superintendent issues statement on Pickerington school incidents

PICKERINGTON, OH (WCMH) — It has been a challenging week for Pickerington Local School officials.

After four threatening messages were discovered at two high schools in the span of a week, school lockdowns and police roaming the hallways became daily occurrences.

But Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson hopes the district can put those issues behind them.

Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson
Superintendent Valerie Browning-Thompson

“I am incredibly proud of how we came together to deal with what has been a difficult week,” she said in a response letter to last week’s multiple incidents. “Fortunately, we have a dedicated, talented team of teachers, administrators, and staff members who place the safety, security, and education of our children as their highest priority.”

“In the coming days, we will continue to assess our response to this week’s situations and determine how we can improve for the future. Moving forward, we also will work to improve our school culture.”

The first of the four threatening incidents was reported on Monday. A threatening message was found on a bathroom wall at Pickerington Central.

Two days later, a similar threat was sent to some students in a text message. Those texts caused a lockdown at PHSC.

Also on Wednesday, a threat from a student at Pickerington North was found at the end of the day.

On Thursday morning, a bomb threat was found at the PHSC. Students had not arrived, and buses were diverted to Ridgeview Junior High School until police made sure the building was safe. A suspect was arrested later that day.

“As a result, four students were arrested,” Browning-Thompson stated in the release. “Each of those students face possible felony charges and school discipline.”

Browning-Thompson also references a racially-offensive video found and posted to social media within the past few days. She said the video “was inappropriate, disturbing and culturally insensitive.”

“As a district, we will use this unfortunate incident to better ourselves,” she said. “We will continue work we began earlier this year to develop short-term and long-term strategies to address issues of diversity and cultural sensitivity in our schools. We will continue examining our school environment to ensure that we provide a safe, inclusive and welcoming culture.”

The staff is also asking for help to change the culture. From the school’s release:

Pickerington schools strive to maintain a safe and secure learning environment that is free of unlawful harassment.

Our students, parents and staff can help us by immediately reporting harassing, intimidating and threatening behavior through appropriate channels: a school administrator, teacher, or law enforcement.

Parents, I encourage you to talk to your kids about the potential long-term consequences of their behaviors. Educate yourself about social media, and closely monitor your children’s online behavior, especially on social media.

I also am asking parents to remember that the Pickerington Schools staff goes through significant training to handle emergency situations. That training, which was evident this week, is part of building emergency plans that have been developed with the help of the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.

Our first priority in an emergency situation is the safety and security of our children.

When we as a district determine a situation is serious enough to put a school under lockdown, it is critical to secure the building. During such a situation, we ask that parents not come to the school to pick up students. We understand you may be concerned for your children, but your arrival and presence reduces building security and actually endangers our students and staff. It means doors are opened and people can enter and leave the building. It distracts building staff and police, preventing us from managing the situation at hand.

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