It appears only two Verde Valley school districts are adhering to a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to verbal threats of violence — a feature or a bug, depending on your preference as a parent or teacher.
According to Camp Verde Unified School District Superintendant Dennis Goodwin, age doesn’t matter when it comes to disciplinary action for threats of violence.
Once the threat is confirmed, elementary-age students receive a mandatory three- to five-day suspension.
Goodwin said that every threat of bodily harm that occurs in CVUSD’s K-12 system is investigated by the police in parallel with the district.
Goodwin said that leaving disciplinary decisions up to principals leaves schools liable. According to the Mingus Union High School’s 201617 student handbook, verbal threats range in severity from a Level IV to a Level VI infraction, resulting in a mandatory three- to five-day suspension and a “police referral.”
The region’s other four districts — CottonwoodOak Creek School District, Clarkdale-Jerome School District, Sedona-Oak Creek School District and Beaver Creek School District — generally exercise more leniency when it comes to disciplining students for verbally threatening violence.
COCSD, a K-8 district, does not have one catchall policy: According to COCSD Superintendent Barbara U’Ren, there is a range of actions that may be taken “depending upon age and degree from talking to the child, speaking with the parents, counseling, school discipline, threat assessment, a board hearing or involvement of the police.”
A first infraction may result an informal talk and/or parent involvement and subsequent occurrences may result in short-term suspension.
U’Ren said that it is a principal’s discretion whether or not to speak with all parents of children involved in a verbal threat or only the parents of the student who threatens, depending upon the threat.
CJSD Superintendent and Clarkdale-Jerome School Principal Kathleen Fleenor said that, “For our district, one size does not fit all. Very young elementary students say many things when they are upset. What a kindergarten, first- or second-grade student may say and the actions taken as a result of the statement are often quite different from the actions taken regarding an older middle school student.
“The first step is to determine the viability of the threat. Our School Resource Officer is involved in the initial assessment. There is also a threat assessment team that can be involved. The team includes the SRO, the vice-principal, our school counselor and the classroom teacher. Information is provided to both sets of parents.”
SOCSD Superintendent Dave Lykins said that suspension is not immediate: “Building administrators investigate and, depending on the validity and the seriousness of the threat, would determine next steps,” Lykins said. “If it is determined that a law has been broken, we call on our school resource officer to investigate. Any time our school district involves law enforcement, we notify parents.”
According to the BCSD student handbook, threats are Level Three to Level Five infractions, resulting in a minimum of one day’s detention. Three or more instances of te same kind of threat, however, will result in possible suspension and a Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Deputy “referral.”