Parents seeking solutions after second gun-related incident at Rigby Middle School
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RIGBY — Dozens of parents met at the Rigby Police Department Monday night in the wake of a lockdown at Rigby Middle School last week when a gun was found in an emotionally struggling 13-year-old girl’s backpack.
The girl was taken into custody following the ordeal. No shots were fired and no one was injured, but it was the second gun-related incident at the school since the May 6 shooting that injured three people.
In a conversation with EastIdahoNews.com Monday afternoon, Jennifer Scarbrough, a concerned parent, said the shooting could have been prevented if the school had taken the appropriate action in the first place.
“Threats were made and it was brought to their attention a week prior,” Scarbrough says. “They suspended one person but didn’t look into another person (who) … said something along the lines that she planned stuff and wrote it down in her notebook.”
Monday night’s meeting was led by Police Chief Sam Tower. He gave a debrief of what’s been happening in the community over the last four months. Parents also voiced their concerns about a variety of issues, including school safety, mental health, bullying, communication between the district and the community and many other issues.
Scarbrough is one of several parents who says there hasn’t been any communication or action from the school district since the shooting and she feels they should be doing more.
Last week, Jefferson School District 251 announced backpacks would no longer be allowed at secondary schools. Megan Humble, another concerned parent, feels this was a reactionary decision and suggested installing metal detectors might be a better solution.
“I don’t have all the answers and I’m never gonna claim to. I’m just a mom who is upset, a mom who cares and a mom who is open-minded to whatever solutions are effective,” Humble says. “They need to take proactive measures to prevent this from happening … and if metal detectors are the answer, (the district) has my full support.”
Scarbrough also says the backpack ban is not a perfect solution but is at least a proactive step to put a change in place.
Many parents say bullying is the underlying problem at the school and brought it up during the meeting.
Ashley Stallings, the program director at Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center, who was also in attendance, mentioned a program they offer called “Safer, Smarter Kids,” an evidence-based, mentor-led anti-bullying curriculum that can be taught in schools.
Tower mentioned some similar programs and cited some research from Texas A&M International University.
“Research indicates that the impact of anti-bullying programs ranges from less than 1% impact (for low-risk children) to 3.6% (for high-risk children). Thus, it can be said that although anti-bullying programs produce a small amount of positive change, it is likely that this change is too small to be practically significant or noticeable,” the research points out.
Though bullying has been a much-talked-about issue over the last several months, Tower said it’s something that impacts other communities and Rigby does not have the worst cases of it.
Tower also said bullying or student harassment, is an infraction under Idaho State Law and is not considered a crime, which makes it difficult for law enforcement to do much about it.
In addition, bullying often takes place over social media. Identifying it is not always easy and the school’s responsibility in dealing with it is also unclear.
Not only was the May 6 shooting the first school shooting in Rigby, it was also the first in Idaho, Tower said, and the fact that the shooter was a girl “is strange” and makes it particularly “groundbreaking.”
However, the Deseret News reports a gun-related incident occurred in Rigby in 1989. A 14-year-old boy was arrested after he pulled a gun at Rigby Junior High School, threatened a teacher and students and took a 14-year-old girl hostage.
No specific solution was reached during the informational meeting. Tower ended it by asking those in attendance to discuss what changes they’d like to see and return next week with a proposal to implement. The meeting is scheduled for Oct. 4 at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, the Upper Valley Child Advocacy Center is partnering with the school district for a mental health symposium on Oct. 8 at Harwood Elementary. It’s happening from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is free for anyone who wants to attend. Click here to register.