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Virginia fourth-grader allegedly on ‘kill list’; parent outraged at school’s response

Crystal Graham
school classroom
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Bullying and threats of harm unfortunately happen at all ages and all grade levels – even with students in Pre-K and elementary schools.

Parents of a fourth-grade student at Berkeley Glenn Elementary School in Waynesboro were recently notified by the school principal that their child was on another student’s “kill list.”

The parent was called hours after the incident occurred and said the principal told them that that the child’s bookbag was searched, and no weapon was found.

The parent was told that the child admitted to saying they had a “kill list,” and the child said the classmate “annoyed him and would tell him to be quiet during class.”

The parent said that the principal told them that the school was taking the threat seriously, and there would be consequences for the student with the so-called list.

About one week later, the parent said the student who made the threat was back in school; and even worse, still in the same class as the victim.

While school shootings or violence in schools at the elementary level are rare, there are news headlines that prove they do happen.

If you do a Google search for “elementary school” and “gun” or “knife” or “kill list,” you’ll find that Waynesboro Schools are not alone in facing troubling incidents involving children of all ages. Students as young as pre-K have been found at school with a loaded gun or other weapon.

As a parent, when your child goes to school, you’d like to think that they are safe. In light of the recent incident at Berkeley Glenn, this particular parent worries that the opposite is true.

“I don’t think the school takes anything serious, makes safety a priority or makes me feel like my children are safe,” the parent told AFP. “Violence is rampant in the schools. I understand all children needing access to education but when your child … is being allowed to affect the education of those around them, then something needs to be done.”

The parent is upset that while their child is the victim of the threat, they are the ones scrambling to find alternatives for their own peace of mind. The parent is now faced with a few choices – though none of them are ideal – homeschooling, enrolling the child in another school in another district or private school. All of the possibilities have financial implications for the family.

Waynesboro Schools Assistant Superintendent Ryan Barber said he was “not able to comment on a student specific threat assessment process.”

Last year, a sixth-grade student at Kate Collins Middle School in Waynesboro brought an airsoft gun to school. When the school administration became aware of the weapon, the Waynesboro Police Department was notified. The student was ultimately arrested and charged with having a firearm on school property, a class 6 felony.

In both instances, it appears the issue was able to be addressed because a student spoke up and alerted a teacher or administrator.

“I encourage anyone who has knowledge of a threat, say something, even if it seems insignificant,” said Barber. “Our school division has processes in place to address low to critically imminent threats.”

Barber said that safety in Waynesboro Schools starts with teachers who “have been trained in crisis management in an effort to be proactive, and when necessary, reactive.”

The school system has also employed more school psychologists, school social workers, school counselors, behavior analysts and social/emotional learning educators.

Waynesboro Schools also utilize the StopIT App for anonymous reporting of concerning behavior that occurs at any grade level.

“If there are concerns related to safety, detailed safety plans are developed so any safety threat is mitigated to the greatest extent possible,” Barber said.

Even with these measures in place, the parent of the child named on an alleged “kill list” doesn’t feel their child is safe anymore.

“I don’t feel (the child) is safe at all,” the parent told AFP.

The parent was also frustrated that more information wasn’t shared with them. Were the police contacted? Who was the child?

“They just kept saying they couldn’t tell me,” the parent said.

The victim did eventually tell their parents who had threatened them and what happened. But the parent felt the school administration should have been more open with them.

“I’m not sure if other parents were notified (after the threat), but I think they 100 percent should have been. I think they weren’t notified because most people would also want the child removed from school … I think I should have been told the course of action and should have been notified when (the child) was allowed to come back,” the parent said.

Barber said that the Code of Virginia requires the school division to notify families within 24 hours of a bullying situation.

“Our administrators reach out to families much sooner than that if a child is in danger or if their child is the subject of a threat of any nature.”

He said that many families reach out to the school to let them know about anything that might happen outside of school or on social media that might “spill over” to the school environment.

“Our job is to provide a safe learning environment, and we will use all of our resources to make that a reality,” Barber said. “While it’s inappropriate to guarantee safety in any environment, we have proactive strategies that we implement to do our part to support the children and the families involved with the threat.

“Violence of any type in our society is heartbreaking, but when it happens in schools, it is a nightmare,” Barber said. “Our children should be able to attend school without the fear of threats and violence.

“Our staff works with our community to do everything we can to prevent violence.”

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Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.