Douglas County students react to threat

'I feel safe at school'


When Rock Canyon High School was placed on lockout April 16, Mara Powner and Ashley Zbylski, both seniors, felt a mix of emotions — scared, confused, freaked out. About midnight, when the Douglas County School District announced school would be closed the next day, they were relieved.

Sol Pais, an 18-year-old from Florida who made was being called "credible threats" to schools in the Denver metro area, had not yet been found.

“I was just waiting to hear the precautions they were going to take,” Zbylski said, sitting outside of Jamba Juice in Highlands Ranch. “It's like, are you going to make the right call?”

For her, canceling school “was the only option.”

Morghan Vogt, a senior at Legend High School, became concerned the afternoon of April 16, when teachers suddenly rushed students home with little explanation. That didn't stop students from looking up the news on their phones.

“Someone sent me this picture they saw, and it was the picture of her,” Vogt said of the suspect. “I texted my dad about it.”

Olivia Schaefer, a senior at ThunderRidge, thought it was interesting how quickly the news spread. Her school district was among dozens in the Denver metro area making national news. The suspect's photo was rapidly circulating on social media.

“It was everywhere,” Schaefer said.

She said she was happy that Douglas County School District decided to cancel school April 17. So was her friend, Chloe Bailey, also a senior at ThunderRidge.

“It's just not worth it,” Bailey said, adding, “It's weird to see it on the news in other states and then have it happen here.”

About noon on April 17, the FBI and local law enforcement announced Pais — who officials say was infatuated with Columbine — had been found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound near Mount Evans.

That she was no longer a potential danger to the community was a relief for Fallon Carney, a senior at Legend High School.

“Knowing that she's not a threat to us anymore, that's definitely a breath of fresh air,” she said. “But these things could happen every day and we could never know.”

The afternoon of April 17, the Douglas County School District announced school would be in session the next day. Heightened safety and security measures would be in place, the district said in an email to families. Staff would be “extra vigilant.”

The students interviewed for this story agreed on one thing:

“I feel safe at my school,” Powner said.

Nick Puckett contributed to this report.


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