February 22, 2015 - 10:07 PM
PENTICTON - Fears of a continued threat and frustration over communication was on parents’ minds at a community meeting set up by School District 67 following last week’s discovery of a threatening letter at Skaha Lake Middle School.
Police and school officials met with students' parents and members of the public to hear their concerns as well as to bring them up to date on the investigation into the threatening letter.
Penticton RCMP Supt. Kevin Hewco told approximately 200 people assembled at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre Sunday evening, Feb.22, no new leads had been turned up in the investigation over the weekend.
Encouraging everyone to get engaged, Hewco said the community can get better by working together. He urged parents to find out what their kids were doing on the internet, and who they were hanging out with.
“Unfortunately, the target audience I’d like to send that message to is probably not in the room tonight,” he said, urging parents to go home and talk to their kids.
Staff Sgt. Curt Lozinski said further investigation over the weekend had police no further ahead, adding the message was likely either fictitious at the beginning, or the writer realized: ’What have I done? How do I get out from under this thing?'
“We want to help these people, we don’t want to throw them in jail,” he said.
Plans for the upcoming school week include maintaining a police presence around four schools — Princess Margaret, Penticton High, Skaha Lake Middle School and Okanagan Falls — along with increased adult supervision and restricted access through schools.
School District 67 Supt. Wendy Hyer encouraged the return of schools to normal operation to lessen the traumatic effect of the incident on students. She said District and school counsellors would be on hand for students, encouraging anyone who sees something that “doesn’t look or feel right” to act on it.
One parent asked Hewco how he would rate the threat on a scale of one to 10.
"Our gut check is that it is low, as cops. But we can’t treat it that way,” Hewco said. “Because we’re not getting any tips,we think the threat level is low, but we have to be cautious in saying that, because it’s not fair to anyone here, for me to downplay the seriousness of this... I don’t want to install fear in people. The biggest message here is everyone needs to be alive to what’s around them — be vigilant, not paranoid."
Concerned parents focussed on communications issues that cropped up during the incident last week. Several parents said schools did not communicate the threat properly to the students. One parent said the school failed to let students know they were safe in class, an observation that received a round of applause.
Another parent had difficulty coming to terms with the police assessment the threat was low.
“What if something slips through?” she asked.
“Everyone feels that angst. It’s the elephant in the room - you can’t let that defeat you,” answered Hewco.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015