Aspen School District holds safety forum after social media scare
Law enforcement and school officials addressed a potential social media threat to the Aspen School District (ASD) during a safety forum in the Aspen District Theatre Monday night.
The alleged threat was made in a post on an “Aspen High School Class of 2028” Snapchat thread, according to ASD Superintendent David Baugh. He said multiple Aspen students showed the post to their parents, who alerted school officials and law enforcement officers.
According to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, the post in question “referenced a shooting within a school,” but the sheriff’s office was not able to release the exact language used in the post because of the department’s ongoing investigation.
Parker Lathrop, the chief deputy of operations for the sheriff’s office, said in a phone call on Monday that the department has identified the person responsible for the post as an out-of-state minor, and it’s working to determine appropriate criminal charges.
Aspen Superintendent Dave Baugh told Aspen Public Radio in an email that the threatening post mentioned Aspen Middle School (AMS), and the district will press charges “if it’s appropriate.”
The Aspen School District office sent updates to families Sunday night and Monday morning to provide updates on the situation, and school was in session Monday morning.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the social media threats and says it does not believe there’s an immediate danger to Aspen schools.
Sheriff Michael Buglione is asking anyone with information that would assist in the investigation to reach out to school officials, school resource officers, or through the anonymous reporting platform, Safe2Tell.
The public can also email tips to email@example.com.
The majority of Monday’s presentation touched on updates to ASD’s safety plans and emergency infrastructure, in response to parents’ requests for more transparency around emergency preparedness.
That’s after swatting calls, or fake shooting threats, were levied against ASD, and other school districts around the state, in February and March.
The district has since updated infrastructure on campus with a new door locking system, and it’s also published a set of standard response protocols.
During the forum, Superintendent David Baugh said the biggest lesson they learned from last school year’s swatting calls was to share emergency information with parents as quickly as possible.
“And we will continue to be diligent about that,” Baugh said. “It doesn't benefit us at all to ever sweep anything under the carpet.”
School Resource Officer Cameron Daniel said that while the updated infrastructure at ASD is helpful during an emergency, the deputies’ personal relationships with students is one of their best tools. And stronger doors just slow down an attacker.
“It's all the prevention through mental health, through engaging them in extracurricular activities, through doing all these things that make someone feel a part of something — is why they don't destroy it,” he said.
In response to a parent’s question about traffic impacts during similar emergencies, Sheriff Buglione said that finding ways to transport hospital staff to Aspen Valley Hospital is his biggest concern. He said he’s working with the hospital to identify solutions to these traffic issues.