By Conrad Dudderar
Yukon’s elected school leaders agreed with district administrators’ decision to shut down school Monday, April 10 after a threat was made toward Yukon High School.
All Yukon Public Schools’ classes, activities and practices were canceled “out of an abundance of caution” while school and police officials investigated the threat, according to a YPS social media post.
Students and staff returned Tuesday as classes and activities resumed as normal.
YPS officials addressed the situation during Monday night’s Board of Education meeting inside the YPS administration office.
“We were closed today for safety issues, and this is becoming too common in our country,” YPS Post 5 Board Member Cody Sanders said.
Sanders pointed out that he cannot openly discuss everything the school district is doing to prevent threats from being acted on.
“We have to keep some of this secretive; it’s a security issue,” he added. “But I promise you, there is nobody on this board, there is nobody in this admin team and there is nobody in this building that wants anything bad to happen to these kids or our employees.
“We take that very serious and it’s on the top of our minds most days.”
Sanders assured YPS patrons that district leaders will be “progressive” in their actions to deal with school threat issues.
YPS Board President Suzanne Cannon told Superintendent Dr. Jason that she knew the decision to close school Monday was difficult.
Cannon said she was proud of how YPS administrators handled the threat incident.
“This situation has been really, really hard for everybody,” said Cannon, who represents YPS post 1. “And it’s been scary for all of us, and for our kids and for our parents.
“I have not seen one single comment anywhere that anybody objected to school being closed today. I think everybody was fully on board with us doing what it takes to keep the kids and our staff safe.”
YPS Post 4 Board Member Brian Coulson thanked Dr. Simeroth for “making the tough decision to keep our kids safe” by canceling school Monday.
“This is not just Yukon, Oklahoma,” Coulson said. “This is a national issue, and we have to figure out what is the best way to fix the situation.”
YPS Board 2 Board Member Leonard Wells agreed shutting down school was the right move.
“We’ve got to protect these kids – even when (the threat action) doesn’t materialize,” Wells said.
STRESSFUL … BUT IN CONTROL
The Yukon school district had already taken steps to secure all YPS schools for students “without making them a prison,” according to Dr. Simeroth.
This includes new security camera systems at all building entrances, Yukon school resource officers on campus and regular police patrols of YPS property.
“Obviously school safety is on everybody’s mind, and it has been for quite a while,” Simeroth said. “It’s always a present concern, especially over the weekend here in Yukon.”
Yukon schools’ chief credited Yukon Police, Oklahoma City Police and the Canadian County Sheriff’s Office for their fast response to the recent threat – and noted YHS Principal Melissa Barlow’s interaction and communication with law enforcement.
Their efforts to identify the source of the threat “should not go unnoticed,” Simeroth said.
“It was stressful, but at no time did I think it was out of control because of the people involved,” he said.
YPS administrators met early Monday, initially deciding to place the YHS campus on soft lockdown. It was soon announced that all district schools would close because of the severity of the threat.
“As things progressed and we knew we weren’t going to be able to find the person by the time school started, we ultimately opted for the shutdown for everyone’s safety,” Simeroth explained.
Whether a threat is made by phone or social media post, YPS leaders take it seriously.
“Schools don’t teach bullying,” Dr. Simeroth emphasized. “We don’t teach kids to hate. We don’t teach kids to make threats or commit violent acts against anyone. That’s not what schools do.
“To suggest that societal ills are the schools’ fault is just wrong. … It’s not who we are as educators. That’s not what we do. We love and protect kids the best we can.”