Prosecutor Mark Lindquist and two of his deputy prosecutors, Kevin Benton and Barbara Duerbeck, spoke to more than 300 9th-graders and their teachers at Clover Park High School in Lakewood. It’s all part of the Prosecutor’s commitment to educate students in every junior high, middle school, and high school in Pierce County about school violence and school threats.
“There’s nothing more important than protecting our children,” said Lindquist. “Good information leads to good decisions.”
The presentation was short, only about half hour, but packed with information. What constitutes a threat? What happens if a student posts a threat on social media? And what do students need to do if they hear of a threat to their school and fellow students?
Many school administrators in Pierce County are eager to have these presentations for their students.
“Without that feeling of safety, students can’t learn. We take every threat to safety very seriously,” said Clover Park High School Assistant Principal Matthew Fitney. “Joking about school safety is not funny and students need to know about the consequences of those actions.”
“I think this is a great opportunity for our students to learn about the law,” said Principal Heather Renner. “And also for them to know how serious the schools take the threats, but also how serious the Prosecutor’s Office takes the threats.”
Lindquist and his team have spoken to thousands of students and their teachers since the beginning of the year. Students raised many concerns and questions, such as, “What’s the fine line between free speech and illegal speech?” “What are the consequences of making a threat on social media?” “Are we safe?”
“Free speech has limits,” Lindquist told the students. “For example, you can’t yell fire in a crowded theater. You can’t threaten the safety of others.”
In response to the question about social media, Deputy Prosecutor Barbara Buerbeck reminded students that the contents of Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram never really disappear, and a threat made to a school will always be taken seriously, no matter how the threat is delivered.
Deputy Prosecutor Kevin Benton, the Chief of the Juvenile Division in the Prosecutor’s Office, advised students, “If you see something, say something.”
Students have been receptive to the presentation and the hope is, if equipped with good information, students can play a role in keeping their school and their classmates safe.
If you’d like a presentation at your child’s school, call your principal.