School Threats: Opening the Lines of Communication

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25% of students at one Madison high school spend the day at home, and it wasn't a planned skip day. The students attend Memorial High School, where an alleged threat was supposed to be carried out Wednesday. Nothing happened, but the incident has the district talking policy.

"If we don't communicate, obviously, it raises the concern of parents," says MMSD Superintendent Art Rainwater.

He says a new system is opening the lines of communication between administrators and parents.

"(It) allows us to call every single parent and give them a message," says Rainwater.

A message like the one Rainwater says went out to every Memorial parent Tuesday night. It included information about a non-specific threat found at the school and indicated classes would continue Wednesday, as scheduled.

"We take those threats very seriously. We react very seriously," adds Rainwater.

Madison Police Chief Noble Wray says the threat was found in a school bathroom last week.

"There was some speculation that this incident was a shooting threat and that clearly is not the case," says Wray.

Last November, a bomb threat forced East High School into lock-down. Rainwater says that was in response to a specific threat.

"We make a number of determinations based on the level of the threat, what type of security is called for, and thirdly, what kind of communication is needed," he says.

Rainwater says the district received a number of calls from concerned parents Wednesday morning. Some appreciative of the notification, others fearful for their children's safety.

"We have the lives of 25,000 children in our hands and believe me, it is my single biggest worry in the world," says Rainwater.

This is the eighth time, this school year, the district has used the new phone messaging system.

Meanwhile, police continue to investigate the threat.

The following is a text version of the message phoned to Memorial parents on the evening of May 16, 2007:

"This is a security information call from Memorial High School. All Memorial parents are being notified that a non-specific threat for Wednesday, May 16th, was found at school. Numerous safeguards are in place so that classes will continue as usual tomorrow. This message is for your information; feel free to share it with your child. If you have questions, contact Memorial tomorrow morning at 663-5992."