Conflicting details and a lack of open dialogue regarding a recent bomb threat at Western Peaks Elementary Schools in Surprise has parents questioning the school’s and district’s leadership.
During a recent community forum at Western Peaks that was supposed to address school bullying and improved district communication, discussions quickly turned toward the late April bomb threat. Parents raised their voices — sometimes shouting — about how the district handled the situation in light of what they considered was a serious threat and safety issue.
The news has garnered attention because of an email newsletter sent to parents by the Parents of Western Peaks, a watchdog group of four parents. The letter, which was many parents’ first knowledge of the bomb threat, condemned the manner in which the situation was handled.
Western Peaks Principal Jean Hunt and Dysart Unified School District Superintendent Gail Pletnick said the late April bomb threat found in an upstairs school restroom was dealt with in a quick, appropriate manner and never compromised student safety.
The Parents of Western Peaks, which includes Sue Elinski, Kathy Carter, Jill Dirks and Stephanie Hamill, are upset because they believe Hunt didn’t keep them adequately informed about details of the bomb threat, including when the incident took place and how it was investigated.
Graffiti containing language that stated, “I’m going to blow up the school on Monday” was originally discovered April 22 in an upstairs school restroom at roughly the time when school was being dispersed, according to Hunt. During the Monday night meeting, Hunt said she instructed a school custodian on April 22 to paint over the graffiti so students wouldn’t see it April 25, the following Monday, upon returning to school.
For whatever reason, school officials and parents confirm, the graffiti in question was not painted over and was rediscovered that Monday. While Hunt saw the threat on the previous Friday and, along with other school officials, concluded it wasn’t a threat, many parents said they found it strange the graffiti suddenly became a threat on Monday and warranted an evacuation of the entire school to investigate.
The April 22 bomb scare was not the last threat made.
On Tuesday, a letter was sent home to parents to alert them that “a potential threat to the campus was discovered.” The letter did not say what the threat was or who was responsible. A phone call to a Surprise Police Department detective assigned to the case went unreturned.
“Upon disclosure of this information, we (Western Peaks Elementary School) contacted the Surprise Police Department to investigate,” the letter stated. “Today’s situation is being addressed to ensure that a safe and secure environment is maintained on the campus.”