Print Threat triggers call to police
Written by Mark Lineberger   
Wednesday, 30 March 2011 00:00

The Camp Verde Marshal’s Office had to show up at Camp Verde Elementary School earlier this month when a young boy threatened to shoot a fellow student.

The 11-year-old didn’t have a gun, but the threat of violence is something the Camp Verde Unified School District has to take seriously.

“It’s pretty standard operating procedure when there’s a threat to other students, another person’s life or if we believe a student could pose a threat to another student after school,” Superintendent Dan Brown said.

Brown said even a fight would warrant a 9-1-1 call if someone was really taking a pounding.

It’s the threat that’s the trigger to bring in law enforcement, Brown said.

In cases like the recent threat at the elementary school, the ultimate decision to get law enforcement involved is up to the principal, said Debbie Pottorff, the elementary school principal.

Camp Verde Unified School District has a school resource officer from the marshal’s office usually on duty at the middle school.

In this most recent case, a school employee contacted Pottorff after seeing the student’s behavior. Pottorff said she contacted the resource office who then called for more assistance from the marshal’s office.

“I have to weigh whether I should [contact law enforcement] or not,” Pottorff said. “Fortunately, I don’t have to make contact that often. I have to distinguish what a student’s intent actually was.”

Brown said things have actually been improving at the school district in recent years in terms of law enforcement interventions.

Brown said when he first joined the district as principal of the middle school, there were more than 50 students arrested. Half of those were taken to the juvenile detention center in Prescott, often for a stay of at least 24 hours.

The next year, Brown said there were fewer than 20.

“It hasn’t been as common as it once was,” Brown said, something he said could be attributed in part to a surprising side effect of the economic recession.

“It seems like families are coming together more,” Brown said. Brown also said the school district’s new focus on a new curriculum and guidelines are also paying off.

“We’re seeing fewer disciplinary referrals all around,” Brown said.

For the child who ends up getting arrested, aside from dealing with the consequences of the legal system, their return to the school system varies.

Brown said for anything beyond a nine-day suspension, the student must go before a hearing officer. There, the administration and parents get to weigh in on the situation, including a recommendation from the administration for an appropriate punishment.

That punishment could include anything from a 45- to 90-day suspension, or expulsion for the rest of the school year.

“A lot of it depends on the age of the student and the severity of the [infraction],” Brown said.

Pottorff said the school would rather not have to have something happen that requires the police in the first place.

“But the times being the way they are, we have to take things more seriously,” Pottorff said.