Report: Hartford High Principal Chose Not To Report Gun Threat

David Lee

The Hartford High School principal chose to not report a gun threat, according to a report from the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office.

A Sebastian County deputy went to Hartford High in reference to a student making a threat, according to the report.

When the deputy arrived, he met with a teacher at the school who informed him that she heard a student make a threat to shoot everyone at the school. The report states the student made the threats on Friday (March 14).

As the deputy prepared to leave the school, he was asked to step into the principal’s office. Principal David Lee asked the deputy to bring him up to speed on what was taking place.

This conversation was the first time the deputy had spoken with the principal that day, even though he had been at the school for more than an hour, the report states.

According to the report, after the deputy explained everything to Lee the principal said, “I was told about this Friday but didn’t think it was a threat. I thought it needed some concern, but I didn’t think it was a threat because [the student] said he would do it if there were no rules.”

Before he left the school, the deputy spoke again with the teacher who reported the gun threat. He asked when she reported the incident, and she said she reported it on Friday (March 14). She also said Lee wouldn’t do anything about the threat and that he down played the threat, according to the report.

The school released this statement in response to the report:

“The Hartford School Board and administration would like to assure the parents of Hartford students that the safety of the students and staff are the priority of the District.  As far as the recent incident, there is a written procedure of how threats are handled.  This procedure was followed.  Due to this incident, the procedure will be revisited.  Thanks is given to Sheriff Hollenbeck and the Sebastian County Sheriff’s Department for the ongoing help in guaranteeing the safety of the students and staff.”

A 16-year-old boy was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of first-degree terroristic threatening. Since he is a juvenile, his name was not released by the sheriff’s office.

The teenager told two other students at the high school on Friday that if there were no rules, he would bring a gun to school and shoot everyone, authorities said.

15 comments

  • Teresa Gregoire

    Doesn’t sound like a threat to me either. Sounds like it was a comment made during a conversation…Need to hear it in the context of what is going on at the time. Was the student threatening to bring a gun or was he participating in a conversation and he was using that statement to make a point??

  • A classroom teacher

    School officials should take all comments seriously and let law enforcement and judges decide if it was terroristic threatening or not. I would much rather be safe than sorry! In today’s society we need to teach our children that they need to be careful what they say.

    • Lorene Peters

      The problem with letting the court decide, is it is decided before the child ever goes before the court. This happened to my son. He made a statement to another child “ASKING” that child to bring a gun so he could shoot someone. Now, keep in mind, at the time there were no weapons in our household. This “THREAT” depended on another child to bring a weapon. Since this wouldn’t fly, the administration made up the rest of the story and had him sign a statement saying it was true. All without contacting the parent! My son is autistic too by the way! Thank goodness for common sense of this principal!!!!

  • A parent from a near by school

    Hartford really didnt need more bad publicity, I don’t think it was a threat. I dont think that the teacher pushing it as a threat really thought it out. I think they should have pulled all the children into the office and asked about the conversation that took place, & asked them if they felt threatened. I think that the school faculty should take these matters seriously and decide if its terroristic threating or not. Not law enforcement and judges. Children talk. As far I know we still have freedom of speech. This child was arrested for talking? So what was his crime? Ridiculous.

  • PeterM

    Obviously the Principal did not get into a position of authority by making bad judgments and decisions. It seems like reporting this incident was at his discretion. It appears that he used his discretion wisely by not overreacting. Granted, it is a sensitive world that we live in, however all reactions should not be knee-jerk as it reads the teacher suggests. Well played, Principal Lee. I think more people should approach teachers in this manner.

    As far as the deputy, if he was in the school for an hour, should he not have first addressed the administration before wandering the halls? Yes, he met with a teacher, however it seems as though administration should be involved first and foremost.

  • A little insight

    Administration should definitely been involved from the beginning of the officers visit. It must also be considered that Mr. Led is not only the principal of the High School, but the Elementary school and may have been in the other building for the duration of that visit.

  • A volunteer

    People are judging the teacher as if she was a whistle blower but in today’s crazy society, I personally feel she done the right thing and the principle should have notified the authorities just to have the incident on record. Now, as far as the kid making the statement, maybe this will be a lesson learned and he will think about what he says in the future.

  • Justice

    Thankfully there are still some small schools that you won’t ever hear about a 1st grader being hauled to jail for playing cops and robbers at recess! Kudos to this principle for not being interested in 15min of fame for a non issue.

  • R71

    An emotional kid blurts out that if there were no rules he’d bring a gun and yada, yada.

    That’s not a direct threat, it’s just a stupid kid engaging in fantasy talk. Now he’s in juvenile jail and facing charges for commiting a thought crime.

    Think about the implications of prosecuting all thought crimes going forward.

  • Food for thought

    Wo wo wo! Let me get this straight. A kid says what he would do IF there were no rules and now he’s being charged with terroristic threatening? It’s a simple IF/Then statement people! In this case, there ARE rules so the statement essentially reads “there are rules, therefore I would not shoot everybody.” That’s not a threat. Obviously the principle was handling it in a good way by not calling the cops on the boy that said something with much stronger meanings than he could have imagined. How many people on this earth have thought such things about rules. Rules are what keep us in check and the boy was alluding to that!

    Apparently, the news and others don’t know what a threat is. Threat: “an expression of intention to inflict evil, injury, or damage”. The boy never stated that he intended to do anything. It sounds like they’re manipulating the meaning of the word to benefit their story.

  • James Brandli

    The procedures that were in place were followed. Lee acted in accordance with the procedures in place, quoting the school district statement released, “As far as the recent incident, there is a written procedure of how threats are handled. This procedure was followed.” More common sense and less drama are needed in our culture. The headline was VERY misleading. “Report: Hartford High Principal Chose Not To Report Gun Threat”. I would assume that the procedure alluded to in the school district’s statement involved reporting the incident to higher-ups. If Lee did in fact report to his superiors, then the headline is sensational and misleading. However, I guess that a headline that read, “Report: Hartford Principal Chose to Follow Procedures and Reported Vague Gun Threat to School District” would have been less dramatic and possibly not worth reporting. Hmmmmmmm……. Good job Lee and good job Hartford School District for apparently supporting your Principal! I concur with Food for thought above completely.

  • Hartford Graduate

    This was clearly not really a threat, as stated by others already! This child said “if there were no rules, then..” There are rules and so the child was obviously not going to do anything. It is very sad that this is being portrayed the way it is. This Principal was clearly trying to to do the right thing, but the news is reporting it as he is the bad guy. I have known Mr. Lee for years. I know he takes his job and the students very seriously. He is a man of great integrity, and I trust his judgement fully.

  • A parent

    If this students information has to be made public as these concerned town folk claim, then shouldn’t all the drug addicts, childmolesters and any other criminal have to notify the school officals that they are on school property? Lets not judge one person besides let he without sin cast the first stone.

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