Teachers’ delay in reporting threat to ‘shoot the school’ may have violated policy

Teachers who waited to report a coworker’s threat against their school may have violated a district policy that requires school staff to immediately report any threats to school safety.

Kristen Thompson, who resigned from her job as a special-needs teacher at Pathways Elementary School in Hillsborough last week, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of “communicating a threat of mass violence,” according to the arrest warrant.

The warrant, obtained Wednesday, says Thompson warned three other teachers to leave the school if she sent a message that said “the squash is ripe” because that meant “she was going to shoot the school.”

According to the warrant, Thompson also told a fourth teacher “any day she does not come in and shoot the school is a good day.”

The warrant notes those alleged incidents took place May 6.

Thompson was not arrested until May 21, four days after she abruptly resigned from the school.

District policy requires teachers to “at a minimum, immediately report situations that may pose a threat to the safety of students or any other person on school system property, at school events, or in any other situation in which students are under the authority of school employees.”

On Thursday district spokesman Seth Stephens said school administrators reported the threats to law enforcement on the “same day they [the administrators] found out about it.”

“The assistant principal and the principal didn’t find out until later [when the teachers told them], and when they did find out they immediately contacted law enforcement,” Stephens told The News & Observer.

Stephens also said there was extra security at Pathways this week.

“We’ve done everything possible to ensure the safety of everyone at the school, not just the kids but, staff and parents too,” Board of Education Chair Will Atherton said.

District policy also requires training for teachers that specifically addresses fires, chemical spills and “appropriate responses to threats to school safety.”

“The school systems do various types of scenarios to try to help staff understand what they should do, whether it’s a child that reports it, a parent or whoever,” Atherton said.

“The policies are there to ensure that we take everything seriously,” Atherton said.

Thompson was released on a $1,000 secured bond, with the conditions that she have no contact with any members of the school system except through an attorney, not trespass on any Orange County Schools property and not have a weapon. Spectrum News reported that Thompson told the judge she did not have a weapon.

Her next court date is June 14.

Staff writers Joe Johnson and Mark Schultz contributed to this report.

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Shelbi Polk reports on K-12 education in Durham and Orange Counties for the News & Observer. She attended Texas A&M University and followed the crowds to Raleigh in 2018.