Questions still loom in the investigation of a list found at Lee’s Summit North High School that has online news sites and social media buzzing about communication on the part of the Lee’s Summit R-7 School District.
At the center of the investigation is did the R-7 district wait nearly a week to notify the parents of students whose names appeared on the list and did the district notify other students, their parents and faculty and staff of a perceived threat after a student found a planner Dec. 7 at Lee’s Summit North that contained a list of five names with the words ‘kill list’ and ‘die’ on it?
The list also included a drawing containing the image of a knife and what appeared to be a drawing of a gun.
In response to inquires made by the Lee’s Summit Journal Jan. 7, Janice Phelan, a district spokeswoman, emailed a statement that read: “Lee’s Summit North High School and (the) Lee’s Summit Police Department have investigated this incident during December and a police report was filed. Parents of the five students were also notified in December.”
One parent notified took to television airways to vent frustration at what she called a lack of communication on part of the district. In a report that aired Jan. 4 on KSHB Channel 41 Action News, the parent questioned the district’s urgency in the matter.
According to the report, the mother said school officials told her they’d found the list of five students – including her daughter – in an agenda, or planner, Dec. 7, but the mother wasn’t notified that day.
“They waited a week to contact me and let me know my daughter is on the list,” the woman told 41 Action News. “They said ‘We have investigated, but we couldn’t find out who the planner belonged to.’ They didn’t speak to the students on the list, and now my daughter is afraid to go to school.”
Asked if the district communicated with other students, parents, teachers and staff at Lee’s Summit North about the list, Phelan responded via email: “The item was found the evening of Friday, Dec. 7, and police were notified that evening. Students mentioned were interviewed individually when they returned to school, and parents of these students were notified individually following discussions with each student.
“The investigation by school staff and law enforcement revealed that we were dealing with an isolated incident that appeared not to pose a real threat to the safety of those students referenced in the list and that there was no danger to the overall student body. Communicating with the individual students mentioned and their parents was determined to be the best course of action in this matter.”
According to a police report obtained Jan. 8 by the Journal, the incident occurred Dec. 7 when a student reported he found a student “agenda” in the hallway of Lee’s Summit North. The student said that he opened the planner and found that it had some “disturbing” things written on the front page. The student presented the planner to staff members who immediately notified the school resource officer assigned to the school.
The officer took an incident report and began a follow-up investigation in conjunction with school administrators, according to police department officials.
The owner of the planner was located and indicated that the planner had been loaned to another student who had not retuned it. A subsequent investigation revealed that the second student had recently left the district and transferred to a new school district out of state. The investigation confirmed that the student in question is enrolled in the out-of-state school district but investigators are still trying to make contact with the parents of the student to interview them.
Until then, the investigation is ongoing, said Lee’s Summit Police Sgt. Chris Depue said.
“We’ve done our due diligence and we’re running it down,” he said. “We can’t be wrong. We gave it 100 percent of our attention. We gave the threat 100 percent creditability until our investigation proved anything contrary to that because we have to be right.”
The district referred to its statement when asked if the student still enrolled at Lee’s Summit North to whom the planner belonged would face disciplinary action. She is a juvenile and has not been charged with a crime.
The planner was found a week before the Dec. 14 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., shook the country after a gunman burst into the school and killed 20 students and six adults. While the coincidence is eerie in hindsight, the list found in Lee’s Summit was hardly swept under the rug, Depue said.
“Our response starts with the fact that we put the officers in the schools to begin with,” he said, “so we’re there. They immediately got a hold of the campus officer. Our commitment was there even before the incident. When the student brings it to the school administration they are immediately going to lean on us for our expertise. The officer that was there, they immediately starting running the leads down. We have to look at it from beginning to end, even before the tragedy in (Newtown). Taking it all the way back to Columbine, we have to be right 100 percent of the time. We can’t miss one.”