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Posted 11/01/17 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The McKenzie County Public School District No. 1 administration and the Watford City Police Department need to be commended on the quick and professional manner in which they dealt with a threat to the high school last week.
As was reported in a front page story in this week’s McKenzie County Farmer, the school learned of an unsubstantiated threat to the school on Friday, Oct. 20, when custodial staff found a threatening message written in the girl’s team locker room. The school district immediately notified the police department and began investigating the threat.
While school officials did not believe that the threat was valid, they took appropriate actions and enacted their standard protocols for dealing with threats to students or to a school facility. Some of those procedures included increasing law enforcement presence at the school, checking student backpacks and restricting all entrance into the building to the main entrance on Wednesday, Oct. 25, the day the incident was to happen.
In addition, part of those protocols involved the district sending an Instant Alert to the parents of students who attend Watford City High School advising them of the threat and reassuring them that all precautions and preventive measures were being taken in response to the threat and that the district felt that it was safe for students to attend school and normal activities.
Knowing when to notify parents of a threat, especially when it is unsubstantiated, can be a very difficult choice for school administrators. School officials don’t want to overreact when sending out alerts. But they don’t want to underreact either. It’s a fine line. In this situation, I believe that the school officials responded appropriately in notifying parents.
There are some parents who would have liked to have known all of the facts at the time that the alert was issued. That way, they believe, they would have been in a better position to determine whether or not they wanted their children to attend school on Wednesday.
But, as we in the newspaper business understand, sometimes we can’t get all of the information that we want right when we want it. When an incident as serious as this is being investigated by law enforcement and school officials, some information just can’t be made public immediately.
By the end of the day on Oct. 25, a former high school student, who is a juvenile, was arrested and detained by law enforcement on terrorizing charges.
The speedy resolution to this threat speaks volumes about the ability of our school district and our local law enforcement to work together to keep our school safe.