In a Facebook video on Wednesday, the superintendent of West Grand schools assured students and parents their schools are safe after receiving a potential threat of school violence the day before.
During the video recording, Darrin Peppard addresses the incident before he parlays into a larger discussion about personal responsibility, bullying, school violence and how adults might “step up” to find local solutions to some of these national epidemics.
“The schools are safe,” Peppard said with confidence before empathizing with parents who might have wanted to keep their children home today following news West Grand High had received credible information about a potential threat on Tuesday.
A “credible threat” only means that “something was said” in reference to school violence, Peppard explained in the video, as he recapped how a joint investigation involving Kremmling police, the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and district officials revealed it was not a “viable threat.”
Peppard said investigators spoke to the student who allegedly made the threat and to the student’s parents. While Peppard acknowledged that something was probably said, he stressed the investigation was thorough and the student had neither the plans nor means nor intent to carry out such an act.
Peppard called reports of a possible threat, “credible,” before saying, there is nothing to support this was “a viable threat,” and drawing a major distinction between the two.
Soon after his explanation of the incident, came the superintendent’s “call to action.”
At times, Peppard seems to be thinking out loud as he pushes the community “to be better” throughout the video spanning just over 6 minutes. During the recording, Peppard describes how he, a police officer and school officials met with the students on Wednesday for “a conversation.”
“We had a conversation with our kids about how our words really matter. We had a conversation about judgment. We had a conversation about how we’re a small tight-knit group and how we need to be that small tight-knit group,” Preppard said.
Earlier in the day, the district issued a statement on its Facebook page explaining West Grand High School received a potential threat and there would be an increased police presence at the schools without going into detail about the incident itself.
Over the phone Wednesday afternoon, Peppard said he couldn’t yet comment on the matter because the investigation was ongoing, but he would have more information later in the day.
In comments on social media after the school reported news of the potential threat, a few people suggested the school should look into bullying. Responding to those comments in the video, Peppard said he has no problem revisiting the district’s anti-bullying policies, either in policy or in practice, but real solutions won’t come entirely from the schools.
“So let’s really sit down and really have some meaningful conversations that really dig to the root of this issue,” he said. “This is not just about a school district needing to step up. This is about a whole community. This is about us. We can be different. We don’t need to be that community where this happens.”
The superintendent continued by clarifying that he’s not talking about more Facebook forums. Rather, he envisions town hall gatherings where people in the community can “genuinely” work their way through these issues.
“We don’t just pay it lip service, and we don’t just say, ‘Well, that’s the school’s responsibility or that’s the police department’s responsibility,’” Peppard said. “This is the community. This is our collective responsibility, and I want to see us come together, and I want to see us solve this. It absolutely makes me sick that students in the entire country go to school in fear for their lives.”
Preppard said he’s not exactly sure what the solution looks like just yet, but he knows that children learn from observing adults — and that adults have to do better.
“We’re never going to end bullying or harassment if it continues to happen with adults,” he said. “If we’re going to really end bullying, let’s end the adult bullying. Let’s stop going to Facebook and blasting people; that’s just too easy.
“How about we actually have civil discourse? How about we actually come together and work through? How about we work on teaching our kids tolerance and understanding? I mean really teach them … That’s all of us as a collective community.”
As part of standard protocol and the law enforcement process, district officials said West Grand would have a heightened police presence at both schools today. However, listening to the superintendent’s call to action, it sounds like he’s looking at this long term.
“I really believe as a community we can make a difference,” Peppard said at the end of his video. “We collectively we should be better. We are West Grand, and I think it’s up to us to fix this.”