Evacuations of students and a sweep of the entire middle school has caused confusion and worry amongst families and community members alike.

On Monday, after a weekend enjoyable for many, the unthinkable occurred–the middle school was presented with a bomb threat. Students were evacuated from the middle school to the high school West Gym. At around 9:55, an all-clear was presented and students returned from the high school to the middle school. Superintendent Dr. Shelly Severson of the Black River Falls School District identifies the threat as one many young students do not have a personal connection to.

“It was not an active shooter threat. It was a bomb threat,” Severson said. “Not that one is worse than the other, but I think ‘active shooter’ has an entirely different connotation in people’s mind.”

Severson also explains when she was in high school, threats like these were not taken as seriously.

“Back in high school, people would make bomb threats and they were not taken as seriously. Unfortunately, too many of our kids have watched news reels of incidents around the country and they can struggle with coping skills to bounce back from that.”

Coping after traumatic or scary incidents can be difficult, especially for young children. The school district received its second round of security grants, $94,000, which is being allocated to many things – one in particular being mental health training.

“We just received our second $94,000 security grant. There are some structural changes that will happen at all four school buildings. Additionally, there will be staff training. Training for days like today, mental health; and really the big picture in mental health is how to build relationships with students so things like this don’t happen,” Severson said.

The incident has caused unrest for not only middle schoolers, but the entire school district as well. High schoolers will remember the shooting threat on May 31. Severson says nearly any threat is considered credible and worth acting upon.

“Threats take many different forms. This is something that was written in a sixth-grade classroom that was related to today. As soon as there’s some sort of immediate, specific information, we call law enforcement right away. They are the experts. We do not pretend to be. Within five minutes, we had about six different sheriffs, city police, and chief of police all at the school. I’d say that 20 years ago, we probably would not have assessed every threat. That is unfortunately the environment we live in today.”

Severson added the police response was “exceptional.”

“We are so lucky to have the Black River Falls city police and Jackson County Sheriffs when the incident happened in May and today. They’ve worked seamlessly together. I cannot say enough positive things about those agencies.”

No student or students have been identified or connected to the threat as of yet, Severson says.

“We did not come up with anything. The staff and law enforcement swept through every nook and cranny of the school, and the dogs came through and nothing notable was found. Along with middle school administrators, law enforcement is conducting student interviews.”

Severson says parents need to also be patient and respectful during these incidences.

“I am a parent, too. I recognize how scary it is when you do not have all the information up front. I recognize when they want to know as much information as possible as soon as possible. We ensure student safety first and then communicate. We had some parents that were very upset, but they must respect that. We have to know where everyone is. We are trying to put student security first. With a click of a button, I sent out 2,700 phone calls. We’ve come a long way, but I get it’s not instantaneous. When I was in high school, we were sent home with a note. That’s it–you just had to wait.”

With the two security grants given to the school district, many security plans are in place for if these incidences end up being acted upon in a violent manner.

“There are emergency ladders for every second-floor classroom, additional cameras in the interior and exterior. When Red Creek was built, there is a button that locks down the academic wing and calls police. Eventually, all schools will hopefully have this. In the high school, right outside the cafeteria, there used to be doors, but now there are fire doors; however, we want to change them to security doors. One of the other things we purchased through the security grant is a glass protective film. If they, a shooter, were to repetitively shoot at it, it would give, but any time we can buy seconds in which people are safe are seconds more in which that law enforcement can respond. They are added components that can slow down an active shooter and give time for law enforcement to respond.”

In the spirit of leaving messages, Dr. Severson has a message for the perpetrator(s) of this threat.

“It’s not funny, it’s not a joke, and there are real community resources being allocated to something that is not funny. There could’ve been someone else in the county who truly needed help, and law enforcement was unavailable. And second, besides community resources, unfortunately, in the era we live in, kids do not handle this stress very well. They are certainly done learning for today, and whenever someone infringes on someone’s right to learn and feel safe, that is absolutely unacceptable.”