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What to Do if Your Child is Threatened at School

By Javier Lavagnino, Esq. | Last updated on

It is sadly only too often that it is only with perfect hindsight, in the aftermath of school violence, that the "warning signs" leading up to the disaster are discovered. One mother in Denver, Colorado, is upset with the actions, or rather, inaction, of her child's school in response to a "kill list" found in a classmate's journal.

According to the report, "[t]he journal contained several disturbing drawings of girls being hung by nooses and a list that included the names of eight people the girl's classmate wanted to kill. On the right side of the list were sketches of various weapons that the classmate would use to kill these people." After her child said she was one of the targets, her mother gave the list to police, who in turn, turned it over to the school. An ensuing "threat assessment" didn't find one, and the district simply indicated "they were aware of the incident and were providing the student and the guardian the support they need. They said in the absence of a 'viable' threat they could not remove the student or punish them for expressing themselves."

Although the circumstances and both sides of this incident haven't been fully detailed, other parents out there might be wondering what they can do should they feel their child is threatened at school. Parents have every right to demand a safe environment for their child at school, but sometimes as in the Denver situation, there may be circumstances where a parent feels that their concerns have not been met.

Laws and policies regarding bullying and threats in school are dealt with in different ways at the state and local level across the country. Parents should start out by asking for a written copy of their schools' policies addressing these issues, and should review them carefully. Generally, school officials are required to notify parents about potential threats and/or bullying at school, and they may also be required to contact police too. Although policies will vary, sometimes they require officials to take specific disciplinary or preventative measures depending on the nature of the threats or bullying.

Parents concerned about safety issues in a school, should be sure to contact school officials and follow-up with them for updates regularly. If a public school is involved, parents may be well served by consulting with other parents (and parents' groups) about their worries. Schools and officials may respond better to concerns raised by groups as opposed to individuals, particularly if various specific incidents and/or repeated instances are listed.

Lastly, if a parent feels their child is truly in immediate danger and their concerns remain unadressed, they can consider consulting with an attorney to explore their legal options such as obtaining court-ordered relief, or they could also consider getting a change in schools. Obviously, parents who feel their child has been threatened would probably ask why their child should be the one forced to change, as opposed to the threatening child. Although this is a fair question, a child's safety should come first. A dispute with the school or district about its decision-making may very well be something that is not taken care of overnight, and perhaps could be better resolved while a child is in a safe environment.

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