Scrawled threat on Aspen Elementary School bathroom wall last week frightens parents |

Scrawled threat on Aspen Elementary School bathroom wall last week frightens parents

Crisis communication protocols are improving for Aspen schools.
File Photo

Some parents of Aspen Elementary School students said they are scared about sending their kids to school after a threatening message was written on the bathroom wall by a student last Thursday, Jan. 26.

According to one parent of an elementary student, who wished to remain anonymous for the safety of their child, this is not the first offense from the child who wrote the message on the bathroom wall.

“There are many stories and photos of battered and bruised children and children with PTSD related to (the student),” the parent said.

The parent added that her child and many others were not comfortable sharing the message on the wall with their teacher that day, and the message was “very scary for the children that saw it, as well as the vast number of students, staff, and parents that heard about it and know what it said.”

The message, which was left on the stall in one of the student bathrooms, was not directed toward any individual or group of people, according to an email Friday, Jan. 27, from Aspen School District Superintendent Dave Baugh.

Although some parents said they remained worried about sending their kids to class, the number of absences on Friday did not rise above what school officials consider normal.

According to Baugh, Aspen Elementary Principal Ashley Bodkins reached out to parents the night of the incident, but the message did not go out until midnight because of a technical glitch. The formal announcement was released last Friday, after the district had a fuller picture of what had occurred.

“We communicate when we have valid, factual information. Incidents require an investigation,” Baugh said.

He said staff participates in trainings for situations like this. Additionally, the district had their mental-health professionals and teachers talk with the students.

“It is the belief of the team, including law enforcement, that our school remains a safe place to be a student and staff member,” he said.

He said the school-safety team will conduct a thorough threat assessment that provides school leadership with information to determine the most appropriate intervention and/or discipline after any incident concerning school safety.

“It’s an objective, fact-finding assessment meant to deconstruct the incident and understand if the threat is ongoing or likely,” he said.

The school-safety team will also convene to review existing protocols and make modifications if necessary, Baugh said.

The student’s identity and disciplinary action taken is confidential. But he said that “appropriate actions in alignment with board policy, state, and federal laws have been followed.

“We continue to talk about behavioral expectations with our students,” he said. “We reach out and help children struggling with behavior or emotional issues and provide resources for them. We also reach out to the students who witnessed or were victims of an incident.”

According to a state of education report released by the Colorado Education Association on Jan. 24, safety is among the top concerns for educators in the state. The report was released after a 6-year-old shot and wounded a teacher at a Virginia school on Jan. 6.

The release of the report revealed that 67% of educators are “very” or “somewhat worried” about a mass shooting at their school. Of the educators surveyed, 69% said that they would not feel safer if they were allowed to carry a gun, according to the report.

The incident with the message on the wall came just one day after schools went into secure status before a Glenwood Springs man was arrested in Old Snowmass for alleged threats on social media against Summit County school officials. School districts throughout the Roaring Fork Valley went into secure status, which means nobody can go in or out of the building, but business inside resumes as usual.