2nd restroom drawing prompted notification

If a second drawing hadn’t found this week at Franklin Community High School, parents would have never been notified of a threat about shooting up the school, the superintendent said.

The first drawing found in a restroom stall at the high school on Monday was not credible and was considered childish behavior, and officials believed it was an isolated incident, Superintendent David Clendening said.

School officials and police began investigating, but parents were not notified Monday or Tuesday. On Wednesday, an email notification was sent out about 4 p.m. after a second threat was found in another restroom that day, and students had begun talking about the threats, Clendening said.

But some parents said they never got the email.

Parents were raising concerns about why the school waited to notify them, and why they would receive an email and phone call about overdue library books or school events but not a threat at the high school. On Thursday, the school sent a second letter to parents explaining why they did not inform them sooner.

About 99 percent of students were at school on Thursday morning, and additional officers were patrolling the property and inside the school building to assure students that they were safe, officials said.

Across central Indiana, at least two schools were closed and another was put on lockdown due to unrelated threats at those schools. And schools across the country also received threats.

But the threats at other schools were different because they were specific, with some naming people, police said.

Parents were concerned about their children’s safety, and some had them come home later in the day.

Lisa Deno talked to her son before school Thursday about what to do if someone did have a gun at school. Her advice: Hide. That wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have but said she felt like she should.

“I’ve been praying, definitely praying for safety of all in our schools. I would like to be there today,” she said.

The drawings at the high school were not specific and did not include a date, time or names, Franklin Police Chief Tim O’Sullivan said.

Franklin police were continuing to investigate but are not releasing details, such as any tips they had gotten from students, because the investigation is ongoing, O’Sullivan said. They were working to put together a timeline of when the drawings were done based on surveillance video inside the school, he said.

Both threats found this week included a drawing of a gun with the words “shoot up the school” and were found in a boys restroom stall at the high school. The drawings are similar, but police do not know if they were done by the same person, O’Sullivan said.

After the first drawing was found Monday, police were called in to investigate and determined there was no threat to students, who returned for school the next day, O’Sullivan and Principal Leah Wooldridge said.

Officials decided not to notify students at that time because the threat was considered not credible, Clendening said. Acts of graffiti or vandalism are looked at individually when deciding whether to notify parents, he said. He didn’t know of any recent incidents parents weren’t notified of but said he was sure other students had drawn in restrooms.

In a letter to parents Thursday, school officials said they believed the act was isolated and did not escalate to a level where parents would be notified.

Officials also didn’t want to impede the investigation because they didn’t have all the information on when the incident happened and were still determining details. They also hoped to identify the person responsible and be able to give that information to parents, Wooldridge said.

Police also searched the school and found nothing dangerous, and nothing in the threat was specific, O’Sullivan said.

On Tuesday, students were interviewed about the drawing. Deno said her son, a sophomore, was interviewed because surveillance video showed him going into the restroom where the drawing was found. School officials did not notify her, but her son told her about being questioned. He said other students in the area and who used the restroom were also interviewed. But he hadn’t noticed the drawing, Deno said.

On Wednesday, students were talking about the incident in the hallways and during passing periods, and a second threat was found, Clendening said.

School officials decided to notify parents, he said.

Although there was no threat to student safety, school officials increased supervision and police presence for the rest of the week, according to the letter Thursday.

The school sent an email that linked to a letter telling parents what had been found and that police are investigating. But not everyone got that email, including Clendening, who has children who attend Franklin schools.

That is something school officials are also investigating to determine why some parents got the email and others didn’t, Clendening said. He did not know how many parents did or did not get the email.

School officials chose to send out an email blast because sometimes parents will hang up on the automated phone calls, so they wanted to make sure families had information in writing, Wooldridge said.

Wooldridge said the school also should have put out an automated call to parents, and that was a learning experience for them.

Parents raised concerns about not being notified sooner, saying they had received notifications by phone that same night about overdue library books.

And the school also sends out automated calls nearly daily, about events, games, concerts and other information they want families to know, said Christina Ford, whose daughter is a sophomore.

“They should probably inform you more about the important things, not the less important things,” she said.

Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.