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John Mall back open after ‘credible threat’

by Brian Orr

WALSENBURG – Erring on the side of caution, the Huerfano RE-1 school board and administration decided last Thursday, Feb 1, to close school early after learning of a threat from an expelled 13-year old against other students.

Thursday morning around 10 am, the administrative team at Peakview School received word that a student, who had been expelled last spring and was still under expulsion, had made threats to come to the school to beat up a couple of eighth graders.

School staff went into ‘lockout’ mode to keep the student out of the buildings. Within two hours, the district received information that comments had been made and overheard that the student’s threat had morphed into plans to shoot up the school, and perhaps shoot students at a bus stop. An examination the student’s public social media presence revealed a photo of a table with three handguns on it, with no identifying verbage indicating whether the guns were in the possession of the student or the family.

EMPTY- JMHS’ parking lot was empty on Monday as school was closed by the school adminstration “erring on the side of caution.” Photo by Brian Orr

Nonetheless, between the verbal threats and that image, the district opted to treat the situation as a credible threat, and the decision was made to close school an hour early, at 3 pm. Parents were required to sign out each student, except for students living in Gardner, who caught the bus home. School administration requested that Huerfano sheriffs officers provide protection to the Gardner students at the bus stop. The bus driver stated he did not see any SOs posted at Peakview and Moore indicated to the SO he was very disappointed in the lack of response to the district’s request.

However, Sheriff Bruce Newman told the WJ on Wednesday, Feb 7, that they had deputies at each school “from the time we got the call and complaints of something possible happening; one deputy in both schools, plus anoth­­­­­er deputy in the back part of the parking lot watching the students leaving the school and boarding the bus.”

Friday and over the weekend, Huerfano sheriff’s deputies searched for the student, going to both his mother and his father’s homes, but were unable to locate him. Therefore, after consultation with Sheriff Bruce Newman, Superintendant Mike Moore, along with the board of education, decided Sunday afternoon to close John Mall High School and Peakview School for Monday classes.

By 1 pm, Monday Feb. 5, the student, accompanied by his parents, had turned himself into the sheriff’s office. He was transported to Pueblo Youth Services, but will return to Huerfano County to face charges.

When word reached Moore that the boy was in custody, he rescinded the decision to continue the shutdown on Tuesday, and school went on as normal.

Neighboring school district La Veta RE-2, which also recently had a concern arising from a disciplinary issue, took extra security measures on Monday.

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