Douglas County School District offers resources for families in light of threat

Districts across the Denver metro area canceled school April 17

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Douglas County School District is offering resources for students after canceling school April 17 due to what officials deemed a credible threat in the area. Local law enforcement and the FBI were searching for Sol Pais, an 18-year-old from Florida. She since has been confirmed dead by the FBI.

Threats made by Pais — who bought a pump-action shotgun when she arrived in Colorado, officials say — prompted schools across the Denver metro area to take safety precautions. The Colorado Department of Education recommended schools go on lockout the afternoon of April 16 and close April 17.

Douglas County specifically did not receive a credible threat, the sheriff's office confirmed in an April 17 Twitter post. But it did increase patrols in neighborhoods, schools and around businesses, the post says.

Around 11 a.m. on April 17, the FBI made a statement on Twitter that there was no longer a threat to the community. Douglas County School District remained closed for the rest of the day and after-school activities and athletic events were still canceled. The school district said on Twitter that it was working with local law enforcement to determine next steps.

Anne-Marie Lemieux, a member of DCSD's board of education, offered on Facebook a link to talking points when discussing with children high-profile acts of violence, provided by the National Association of School Psychologists. The list includes: reassure children that they are safe, make time to talk, keep your explanations developmentally appropriate and limit television viewing of these events.

Several parents commented on the post, voicing their appreciation. Some expressed concern over the closure of schools.

“I'm struggling with how to tell my girls once they wake up why we aren't going to school when it's clearly not a snow day,” one parent wrote.

Another parent commented: “For me, it's important that our family communicates messages consistently with the school.”

School board President David Ray wrote, “Feeling sad for our world right now.”

Rich Payne, director of Douglas County School District's Safety and Security Department, is familiar with Columbine threats this time of year, he said outside of an April 16 school board meeting. The 20th anniversary of the tragedy that took the lives of 12 students and one teacher is April 20.

The department of education's recommendation to put schools on lockout the afternoon of April 16 frustrated Payne, as his department and Douglas County parents were left with little information. He said his department works closely with law enforcement and has a system in place in cases of lockouts.

The district had all 91 schools and support sites go into lockout and communicated the information to parents and staff after receiving the information from the department of education, as recommended by the Colorado Department of Public Safety, a district spokeswoman said.

At the April 16 school board meeting, Douglas County Superintendent Thomas Tucker apologized to parents for the little information made available.

“We cannot put our kids' lives at risk,” he said. “I do apologize that the information came the minute our schools were dismissed.”

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