Freeman HS followed protocol before fatal school shooting

Freeman School District officials are adamant they followed protocol when the suspect first showed signs of threatening behavior.

Freeman School District officials are adamant they followed protocol when the suspect first showed signs of threatening behavior.

SPOKANE, Wash. – Almost one week since the deadly shooting at Freeman High School and still questions linger over whether anything could have prevented it.

Freeman School District officials are adamant they followed protocol when the suspect first showed signs of threatening behavior.

Friends of the shooter said they were given notes with threats written on them.

“He was handing out notes to his friends that said he was going to do something stupid to where either he gets killed or put in jail,” Michael Harper, a sophomore told KREM 2 the day of the shooting.

KREM 2 has learned those notes were given to multiple students and eventually at least one of them was passed on to a school counselor. School officials said from that moment on, the district’s policy on threat assessment was activated.

That happens any time a student is threatening others or themselves.

The first step in that process is to get in touch with the student’s parents. Then, the district makes a decision on suspension, expulsion or any number of consequences.

They can also take no action.

Students are not allowed back on school grounds until they have passed a mental health evaluation. That is done through a designated threat team, in conjunction with the counseling department and, if needed, outside mental health experts.

The superintendent of Freeman could not talk about the specifics of the suspect in the fatal shooting case, but did tell KREM 2 those partnerships with other specialized professionals are a critical part of trying to prevent school violence.

"You'd have to walk through every single step of that protocol, if a student ended up leaving, before they could return,” Randy Russell said. “And that's that partnership you need with the family, agencies, counseling department. And that's why you have that protocol in place."

When asked if Freeman’s policy is set out by the state or a specific district policy, Russell explained there are guidelines for every district and they also work with local agencies.

The superintendent also commended his staff and everyone involved from the very beginning for following that policy.

"They did exactly what they were supposed to do. They did exactly what they were trained to do,” he said.

RELATED: Suspected Freeman HS shooter filed not guilty plea in court Friday

KREM 2 checked in with Spokane Public Schools on Tuesday to see if they followed the same steps, saying every case is different, depending on the individual student and the specific threat. But overall, the process is the same, because it is outlined by the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

As for other steps that could have prevented this, some people have raised the issue of metal detectors.

“How do you continually make things safer and how do you try to change things up?” Russell responded. “I know it's a conversation we'll be having, because we've had it in the past. It's not something new, and figuring out where it fits will be part of our ongoing conversation."

The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office confirmed Tuesday the case is still under investigation and they are still working to figure out what happened before the shooting, and when. 

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