Johnston High School - 6500 NW 100th St, Johnston, IA

The Black & White

Johnston High School - 6500 NW 100th St, Johnston, IA

The Black & White

Johnston High School - 6500 NW 100th St, Johnston, IA

The Black & White

No Such Thing as Empty Threats


With the rise of social platforms and desensitization in the media, empty threats have become an epidemic alarming school districts across the country. Consequences for online threats are often avoidable, as a result, schools are increasingly receving threats damaging students’ sense of security while learning. 

On January 17th, Johnston and other metro districts, received a phone call threatening a shooting at the highschool. This threat was revealed to be uncredible, but hit close to home after the recent tragedy and shooting at Perry High School.

 “Well, I think the problem is that the threats aren’t empty anymore because it’s not unusual for someone to bring a gun to school, and for people to die anymore in this country,” stated Celia DiNitto ‘25, a member of March for Our Lives, a student lead organization in support of gun control legislation.

On February 3rd In Ankeny, a high school speech and debate contest was interrupted when somebody used airdrop to send out a photo claiming to have planted a bomb inside the school. The area was quickly evacuated and police investigated the scene to realize that the culprit spread a threat with no legitimacy. Despite the threat being fabricated, the fear students and other people felt on the scene was very real. 

“You have to treat it like it’s the real deal because we know in this world that we live in, these things happen,” said Sgt. Paul Parizek, Des Moines Police Department in an interview with KCCI.

The covereage of mass shootings happening nearly everyday has desensitized citizens to the real gravity these acts of violence hold. It is not uncommon for a student to jokingly make a threat with no actual intention to harm any students or staff members, but in today’s society those ‘jokes’ can not be taken lightly. Non credible threats are a major problem because even if the legitimacy of the danger is questionable, a threat must be taken seriously in every situation.

Johnston Superintendent Nikki Roorda “We take any threat seriously. We don’t say, ‘oh there a lot of non credible threats going on we will blow that off, we never do that.’ We take every threat as if it is a credible threat so we go into our emergency management process. Depending on what we find out, we can employ our doctors at the Johnston police department to come in and help support us or things could be sheltering in place, a lock down, a lock in or out.”

The Three-Tier System
What is it?

When a non-credible threat is made by a student, the school board 

decides their punishment using a three tier system. This was pulled from the School Board’s Section 3:Student Discipline Policies, 

Administrative Regulation Student Threats of Violence and Incidents of Violence  503.1R2

Tier 1:

Responses may include a guardian/student conference, instructional response, removal from the classroom or educational setting, and suspension (grades 6-12).

Tier 2:

Responses may include a guardian/student conference, instructional response, removal from the classroom or educational setting, safety plan, behavior intervention, suspension (grades 3-12), police notification (grades 6-12), and expulsion recommendation (grades 6-12).

Tier 3:

Responses may include a guardian/student conference, instructional response, behavior intervention, removal from the classroom or educational setting, police notification, suspension, or expulsion recommendation.”  Pulled from the School Board’s Section 3:Student Discipline Policies, Administrative Regulation Student Threats of Violence and Incidents of Violence  503.1R2

Students are scared, in the current state of the world it is a real possibility for students to be put in a dangerous situation while learning.

“Recently after Perry, we had a threat here [at Johnston] and that was scary. We were also going to have a vigil for the Perry victims that day, and I had a moment where I was thinking what if something goes wrong? What if somebody shows up with a gun?  It’s a real possibility, so I have been scared,” said DiNitto. 

Students need to be cautious of their comments made online and realize the possible ramifications and fear they may cause. A digital footprint can ruin a person’s future education and job opportunities 

“You have to think about, what does that look like when you apply for jobs and how does that look as you’re applying for colleges or trade school or going out in the career pool? If people looked at your social media, if they looked at your snap or your insta,” Roorda said.

Students’ futures may also be tarnished by the school’s actions against them after making a threat against the district. After the author of the threat is identified the school analyzes their consequences based on their grade level, maturity, nature of the incident, along with who the threat was targeted towards, the likelihood they would carry the threat out, and how it would interfere with the educational environment. Punishment is scaled with a three tier system but ultimately it is up to the school board to decide the consequences towards the student.

Teenagers abuse of social media has become a widespread issue and is currently being discussed amongst congress.

“Congress just last week hosted the main social media players because of some of the harm students have done to themselves trying to be funny on social media. We are in the process of talking about what that looks like in Johnston,” said Roorda.

As a school district, Johnston has been working to create a safe environment. Rules have been implemented to ensure the safety of students and staff, such as having to scan your school ID when you come in, or if you are an adult not affiliated with the district having your license scanned in search of past criminal activity. The school has also partnered with outside organizations to come to aid the community in case of an emergency. 

“We applied for an emergency safety grant, and last year governor Reynolds gave fifty \thousand dollars per school building to do safety upgrades. We worked and partnered with the Johnston police department, Polk county sheriff’s office, Polk county emergency management, Johnston Grimes fire department, we have a lot of those folks who will help us if we get into a safety situation,”  stated Roorda. 

If a student is feeling anxious about their security while learning, there are resources and people you can go to in the building. 

“We also need to make sure that our teachers and our students and other adults in the building are also feeling safe, like mentally healthy, physically healthy. Offering our school counseling support that we have, we have great JUMP programs and mentoring programs,” stated Roorda. “My hope is that every student has at least one adult that they trust in the building that they can go to if they are not feeling great or need to work through something.”

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About the Contributor
Anna Catlett
Anna Catlett, Social Media Editor
Anna Catlett is a Junior at Johnston High School, and this will be her second year of newspaper. She is currently acting as the social media editor. Outside of school she can be found journaling, listening to music, at work, or spending time at her dance studio. Above all, her favorite things are rainy days and kids cartoons.

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