Fifth-grade parents were informed in a Feb. 5 email from Kim Fox Santora, principal at Samuel Staples Elementary School, and Michael Brownstein, assistant principal, that the school is investigating a threatening message left in a school bathroom.
According to the email, obtained by The Courier from a fifth-grade parent, the administration of the school was told by a student on Tuesday, Jan. 29 that someone had written in soap, “All Be Dead,” on a counter in a grade five boys’ bathroom.
On Wednesday, Jan. 30, a parent reported that during the preceding week the names of five boys — all from the same homeroom classroom — had been written in soap on the same counter, according to the email.
The email goes on to say that Ms. Fox Santora met with all the grade five boys on Wednesday, Jan. 30, to let them know she was aware of the graffiti.
“The boys were told that while she knows them to be good, kind students, one student or several students has made a threatening remark, and it will be investigated because this is very serious,” the email said.
A parent of a fifth grade student spoke to The Courier on condition of anonymity and said that they are troubled by the delay in notifying parents.
“If it’s serious enough to call all the fifth-grade boys down to the cafeteria — that’s two-thirds of the class — the parents should have been notified right away,” the parent said.
The parent also said that it was naïve of the administration to think that word would not get out.
“These types of things need to be shared because parents need to know how to address [them],” the parent said.
The email said that Ms. Fox Santora asked the students if they know anything to come to her and added that “several plausible leads” have been investigated.
At this time, though, the identity of the person or people responsible has not been “confirmed,” according to the email. It also said that whether or not the names listed in the bathroom the previous week are linked to the threat has been as yet unconfirmed.
In an interview earlier this week, Ms. Fox Santora said she is certain school staff will be able to identify those responsible.
“I am confident that our teachers know our students well,” Ms. Fox Santora said. “I believe that with teachers and parents working in partnership we will find out which student or students are responsible.”
Dr. Bernard Josefsberg, superintendent of schools, for Easton, Redding and Region 9, said that this situation emphasizes certain truths.
“It’s important that we know our kids — who they are, how they are, what they can do, what they will do, and what they won’t do,” he said.
He said that communication is the key to all relationships working well.
“Whether we’re talking about school relationships, family relationships or, for that matter, relationships between school and families, there can never be enough communication,” Dr. Josefsberg said.
Ms. Fox Santora said she believes that the students in the fifth grade are good kids who — like all kids — make errors in judgment.
“Eleven year olds make mistakes,” Ms. Fox Santora said.
Still, she is not taking what happened lightly — and recognizes it is particularly troubling given the recent school shooting in Newtown.
“I certainly think this is serious,” Ms. Fox Santora said.
She also thinks that the school is a secure place for learning.
“The school is safe,” she said.
Ms. Fox Santora said she cares about the safety of the children entrusted to her care.
“I want very much for our kids to be safe,” she said.
The parent interviewed is uncertain about why anyone would leave a message like the one left in the school bathroom.
“Our minds go crazy imagining the reason for this,” the parent said. “Maybe it’s a joke, I don’t know, I have no idea.”
The parent believes, like Ms. Fox Santora, that the incident was likely an error in judgment by a child.
“I think someone made a really bad mistake,” the parent said. “Kids make mistakes all the time.”
And when the person or people involved are discovered, they should be made to recognize the seriousness and consequences of their actions, according to the parent.
“Sit them down to make sure they understand what they did,” the parent said.
The parent interviewed does not believe the children at Samuel Staples Elementary School face a grave danger.
“I don’t think that there’s a killer walking around Samuel Staples,” the parent said, “but this needs to be addressed.”