Are Burns Lake schools prepared for an emergency?

What should parents do when their children receive a threat?

A concerned mother from Burns Lake recently contacted Lakes District News because her daughter had been threatened on a school bus.

According to the mother, a student told her daughter that he would “bring a gun and shoot her [her daughter] in the face” next time they encountered each other. Shortly after the incident, the Burns Lake mother contacted the local police.

According to Staff Sgt. Grant MacDonald with the Burns Lake RCMP, when the detachment receives a complaint alleging violence on school property, a staff member (trained in threat assessment) is assigned to complete a threat assessment with the school.

“Based on the evidence gathered, the police will determine whether there is any criminality involved,” said MacDonald. “If so, and depending on the age of the person who has committed the offence, the police would complete a criminal investigation and work with the provincial crown prosecutors office to determine if charges are warranted based on the evidence.”

MacDonald continued to explain that if there has been no criminal offence, or if the person(s) involved are under the age of twelve, and not chargeable, the police would work with the school district and other agencies as deemed relevant, to resolve the matter.

The local detachment of the RCMP also has a member who is trained in conducting interviews with children, said MacDonald.

“Should there ever be a call for service involving an incident at a public school, the Burns Lake detachment has members trained to provide an immediate action response to the incident,” he said.

Additionally, the local detachment of the RCMP consults annually with each school administration within its policing jurisdiction to provide updates of its School Action For Emergencies plan.

The School District No. 91 Nechako Lakes also takes preventive action by sending all students a notice outlining its student threat assessment process at the beginning of each school year.

The student threat assessment is initiated when behaviours include but are not limited to “violence; verbal or written threats; Internet threats; possession of weapons (including replicas); bomb threats and fire setting.”

Although the Burns Lake mother contacted the RCMP directly, the School District No. 91 Nechako Lakes encourages staff, parents, students and community members to report all threat related behaviours to the principal of the building who will activate the initial response.

When a threat making or high risk behaviour is reported to the principal, the principal will activate the protocol by contacting the district person in charge, and a team will be set up that is appropriate to the situation.

Once the team has been activated, interviews may be held with the student(s), the threat maker, parents and staff to determine the level of risk and to develop an appropriate response to the incident. The school district will then develop an intervention plan and request the assistance of the RCMP if required.

“Threats must be taken seriously, investigated and responded to,” states the threat assessment notice by the School District No. 91 Nechako Lakes. “Please be advised that threat behaviour will not be tolerated and that all threats of a serious nature and all high risk behaviours will be investigated and assessed accordingly; this may involve other agencies and ministries including the RCMP.”