A student at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired who shared a video he’d taken of himself holding a machete and threatening to kill a fellow student in an effort to get back together with an old girlfriend allegedly made previous threats to bring a gun to school and kill people, a 911 tipster told Baton Rouge City Police.
At least one parent, who on Wednesday obtained a copy of the initial police report, has complained to the school and to state education officials about what she says was a lack of action and inadequate notification to parents.
Sgt. Don Coppola with BPRD said the agency is reviewing its records to determine if there were any past threats reported to them. The juvenile accused of making the threat was arrested Oct. 2, the same night police were alerted, on one count each of terrorizing and carrying a dangerous weapon on school property and was placed in juvenile detention, Coppola said.
Police were contacted that day at 7:36 p.m., well after normal school hours. The police report does not indicate if any school staff contacted them as well.
Baton Rouge police were called to the Louisiana School for the Deaf on Brightside Lane on Wednesday night after an administrator called about …
The 911 caller told police that LSVI staff were given a copy of the threatening video earlier that day. It’s not clear from the police report whether the school was also aware of alleged past threats by this student.
Police found a machete on campus that matches the one in the video, according to the report.
LSVI is a state-run residential school for visually impaired schoolchildren located at 2888 Brightside, where it shares space with the Louisiana School for the Deaf. Both schools are the Louisiana Special School District. The schools have a combined enrollment of about 200 students all the way from preschool to the age of 22. LSVI has about 70 of those students. Many students live in the dorms at both schools.
Sydni Dunn, a spokeswoman for the Louisiana Department of Education, which oversees the special school district, said officials can't discuss the details of any student's disciplinary history, but Dunn did say that any previous issues with this student were "addressed at the school level."
Education officials sent a text message to LSVI and LSD parents on the night of Oct. 2 alerting them about a report of an LSVI student with a knife on campus but things were back in order.
“No students or staff were injured and the situation is under control,” said the text. “Everyone is safe.”
The text, however, does not say the knife was actually a machete, or mention the threatening video or the alleged past threats by this student.
The next day, newly installed Louisiana Special School District Superintendent Ernest Garrett III, followed up with a short letter to parents at both schools. It says there was an incident on campus the night before “in which a student possessed a weapon and threatened the safety of another student."
Like the text, the letter does not mention that the knife was a machete and the alleged past violent threats by this student.
“The student was removed from campus, and an investigation is under way,” Garrett wrote.
Parent Karen Tantzen said she called the school to find out more information, but was rebuffed. She said while she likes the teachers, she’s been having growing safety concerns. So she filed a public records request for the police report. She received it Wednesday morning when it was available to the public and said she was shocked at what she read. She sent an email later that day to Garrett and others connected with the school.
“Why wasn't this student expelled after the first threat of bringing a gun on campus to perform a school shooting?” Tantzen wrote. “Why weren't LSVI parents notified that a student had made threats of a school shooting multiple times?”
Since, she said, no one with the school has called her back, so she’s pulling her blind son, a third-grader, from the school the boy has attended for the past two years.
“We can’t trust them,” she said.
Tantzen also copied on her Wednesday email members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. BESE member Gary Jones responded a couple of hours later, saying BESE members were briefed already on the matter by State Superintendent John White.
“I’m confident LSVI staff took timely and appropriate action,” Jones wrote. “The incident is being handled by the police and the student will not be back on campus.”
Angry, Tantzen blasted a reply.
“If YOUR child attended a school where a student had made MULTIPLE threats to kill other students, wasn’t removed, then brought a weapon on campus and again made a threat to kill, I guarantee that you would feel differently,” she said.
Jones, however, insisted, without providing more detail, that from what he knows no school staff “acted inappropriately or failed to act promptly.”