Thunder Mountain High School is pictured in May 2014.

Thunder Mountain High School is pictured in May 2014.

Attendance plummets at area schools following shooting threat

More than 550 Thunder Mountain High School students stayed home from school Monday after three students reported a school-shooting threat on Saturday.

According to preliminary attendance records provided by the Juneau School District, nearly 77 percent of Thunder Mountain’s 724 students skipped school Monday. The absence rate on a typical day is between 6 and 12 percent, school district spokesperson Kristin Bartlett said.

“That’s extremely high,” she told the Empire, describing Thunder Mountain’s absence rate Monday.

Thunder Mountain wasn’t the only school affected by the alleged threat. Roughly one in three students stayed home from Riverbend Elementary School and Floyd Dryden Middle School, both of which are within a mile of the Mendenhall Valley high school.

“They were largely impacted by their proximity,” Bartlett said.

Even schools farther away were impacted. Juneau-Douglas High School “conservatively” reported an absence rate of about 25 percent, Bartlett said in an email.

Juneau School District officials and the Juneau Police Department are still investigating the threat, which a Thunder Mountain High School student allegedly made late last week. Neither agency said exactly when or where the student made his threat.

In information releases Monday morning, police and school district officials said the 17-year-old student, whose name hasn’t been released, threatened a school shooting. JPD wrote that three Thunder Mountain students, also unnamed, reported Saturday that their fellow student “was threatening a school shooting on Monday.”

According to Juneau School District Superintendent Mark Miller, the threat wasn’t so pointed.

“It was more of a general gun threat,” Miller told the Empire in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “The school was never mentioned. It was vague.”

The student never said anything about “Thunder Mountain High School”, nor did he mention a specific date, according to the superintendent.

“He never said ‘It’s going to happen on Monday,’ for example,” Miller said.

School officials and the police won’t say exactly what the student said when they interviewed him. That information is privileged under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. But both JPD and Thunder Mountain Principal Daniel Larson are still investigating the threat.

For the time being, school officials have told the student not to step foot on any Juneau School District property, including Thunder Mountain High School. Police haven’t taken any action against the student. They don’t have enough information to arrest him or take him into custody, JPD spokesperson Lt. David Campbell said.

“We haven’t risen to the level of probable cause that would lead to an arrest,” Campbell told the Empire Monday morning. “What we’re doing right now is more precautionary than anything.”

Both Thunder Mountain and JDHS have school resource officers — specialized police officers permanently stationed in schools. JPD didn’t station any other officers at either school, but it did have officers stop by other schools in the district throughout the day, according to Campbell.

“We don’t have enough officers to man somebody every hour of the day at every school in the district,” Campbell said.

It’s too early to say whether the schools — or the police — will take any disciplinary actions against the student who allegedly made the threat. Miller said he will remained trespassed from school district property until “everybody has had their say” in the investigation. He doesn’t know how long that might take.

Until then, he said everybody — students, parents, faculty members — should stay attentive.

“Keep your eyes open,” he said. “Be aware, and be vigilant.”

The last time Miller recalls a school in the Juneau School District receiving a threat was in April 2015, when somebody called in threats to Glacier Valley Elementary School and JDHS.

Juneau Police Department officers and Juneau School District employees regularly take part in active shooter response training programs, according to Miller and Campbell.

“This is something that we take very seriously,” Campbell said. “We train for it, and we prepare for it. Thankfully, in this case we were able to get involved before anything happened. Kudos to the kids who came forward and reported a threat.”

• Contact reporter Sam DeGrave at 523-2279 or sam.degrave@juneauempire.com.

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