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Picture threats upset 2 moms

Two mothers are dissatisfied with how the Oak Harbor School District reacted to a boy’s threat to their children’s safety.

Donna Dunn and Lisa Urista both have seventh-grade daughters attending North Whidbey Middle School. The same boy threatened both girls with crude drawings found by the boy’s mother who turned the pictures over to school authorities.

In one drawing, the boy used stick figures of the girl showing her being hanged, hit on the head with a large rock, stabbed with a knife, and burning in hell. Writing included the words, “I hate,” followed by the girl’s name.

The second drawing includes a depiction of the other girl’s face, and shows the boy’s hand holding a gun, and a bullet going toward the girl’s head.

The girls’ mothers say the school district wouldn’t identify the boy due to privacy rules, but they knew who he was. One of the girls apparently angered the boy by turning down a request for a date.

“He asked me to be his girlfriend,” she said. “I just said no.”

The other girl said she never spoke to the boy but may have angered him when she placed a tissue on his desk one day when he was picking his nose in class.

Both mothers were disturbed that school officials knew about the threatening drawings but waited nearly a month before warning the families. Urista said the boy’s mother turned in the drawings to school authorities Feb. 11, but she was not notified of the threat until 25 days later on March 8.

Dunn said she was notified March 7.

“They withheld important information and did nothing to protect the two girls involved,” Dunn said.

Leslie Amador is the mother of the boy, who has a different last name, and she shares the concerns of the girls’ mothers. She said she took the pictures to North Whidbey Middle School officials almost immediately after finding them.

“I try to make the right decisions,” Amador said. She didn’t understand why the girls’ parents weren’t told of the pictures right away.

“It’s ridiculous,” she said. “We told them to call immediately.”

Amador said the boy has a troubled past which school officials were told about when the Navy family moved here. “He has mental health issues,” she said.

District says policy followed

The school district views things differently and argues that the situation was handled according to policy and students were never in danger.

Dave Peterson, assistant superintendent, said the threatening drawings were not made at school and were never delivered to the girls. “They were not used to frighten or scare, the kid did not actually make a threat,” he said. “But we were concerned because there was violence in the drawings.”

Peterson said the parents of the girls were not immediately notified because the boy’s parents sent him away after finding the drawings. “It’s hard for me to share due to the privacy act,” he said. “But he was away from home, we knew everybody was safe.”

Amador said she and her husband found the drawings Feb. 9 and had the boy admitted into a mental hospital in Seattle the next day. She took the drawings to the school Feb. 11. The boy was transferred to another hospital Feb. 23, where he stayed until meeting with school officials March 2. He was kept out of school until a plan for his education could be completed.

Peterson said the district followed policy by talking to the the boy’s parents and waiting until the boy returned home to talk to him. After officials interviewed him Wednesday, March 2, the girls’ parents were notified the next Monday and Tuesday.

“It was delayed on the calendar,” Peterson said of the notification to the parents. “But it was not delayed in terms of when the kid was present.”

Peterson said the boy told school officials he was upset by incidents that occurred at the school. “He had no intention of showing this to anybody,” Peterson said. “He was just drawing a picture because he was angry.”

While the school district believed the pictures were drawn at the boy’s home, they were actually drawn on the school bus, Amador said.

Urista said her daughter was afraid to go to school after learning about the drawings. The girl took most of last week off before returning to school Monday.

Dunn’s daughter kept attending classes, but with trepidation. “She was afraid to go to school,” Dunn said.

The boy returned to school Monday, March 14, this time assigned to Oak Harbor Middle School instead of North Whidbey Middle School.

Report shows past problems

Oak Harbor Police Officer Tony Slowik compiled an incident report on the case. In the report dated March 10, he wrote that the boy’s mother had described a troubled past for the youth. He had been admitted to mental hospitals three times, had attempted suicide two times during the past month, and had taken knives found at home and stabbed furniture and kitchen cabinets more than 30 times. Also, he sexually assaulted two girls in the past who have since moved to California.

Alarmed by the boy’s history as described in the incident report, Urista and Dunn went to Island County Superior Court Tuesday to seek a restraining order to assure the boy would not go near their daughters.

Judge Alan Hancock approved orders keeping the boy at least 100 yards away from the girls and where they and their siblings attend school.

Both Dunn and Urista say they have talked to lawyers and are contemplating legal action against the school district.

“I’m madder than hell,” Dunn said.

Peterson expressed confidence that children are not presently endangered by the boy’s presence at school. “We absolutely believe that with what we’ve got in place everybody is safe at school,” he said.

Amador agrees her son is no danger now that he is at Oak Harbor Middle School. “I think he’s properly cared for. He’s got complete supervision at all times,” she said. “It’s a totally different situation, the staff is just incredible at Oak Harbor Middle School.”

The police investigation was handed over to Det. Teri Gardner. “It’s still an open investigation,” she said Thursday. “It’ll be referred to the prosecutor for review.”

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