Guest Opinions

Ada County sheriff: When your inner voice tells you something isn’t right, call the police

A police officer stands nearby as students arrive at Orono Schumann Elementary School the day after a threat caused Orono, Minn., schools to go on lockdown in February.
A police officer stands nearby as students arrive at Orono Schumann Elementary School the day after a threat caused Orono, Minn., schools to go on lockdown in February. AP

You may have heard about an incident last month where a student at Kuna High School made threats to hurt his classmates.

One of our school resource officers, working closely with the Kuna School District, began investigating as soon as we found out. In a matter of hours, we figured out what happened, confined the student and had a safety plan in place where the student would not return to Kuna High or have access to those kids anytime in the foreseeable future.

The thing is, we can address threats to the safety of our children only when we know about them. In this particular case, several teens knew about the threats for weeks — and never told anyone. It was only after someone overheard something and contacted us that we were able to act.

The question I have is how do we get a culture where kids, teachers, parents and law enforcement all work together to prevent such things from taking shape?

We need an alert system where it doesn’t take horror like what happened in Parkland, Florida, last month to get us to pay attention to what is going on in our classrooms and homes.

Please talk to your kids and assure them it’s OK to share info with you about any threats or other disturbing stuff they encounter on Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook — or whatever else is cool these days — and allow your hard-won life wisdom to help you all figure out if what is being discussed on those posts is something to worry about.

If it is, we need you to contact us immediately. Even last month, our first contact was from someone who wasn’t sure if they should call the police. In the end, their inner voice told them something wasn’t right — and we are glad and relieved that inner voice spoke up. Those moments of good judgment can help save lives and prevent catastrophe.

We also need kids who are concerned or scared about stuff they read on the internet to listen to their inner voice — and then use their regular voice to talk to a trusted adult, which includes the school resource officers we have working in the Kuna, West Ada and Boise school districts. Tell a teacher. Tell a sibling. Tell a parent. And then we need those folks to tell us.

If you come across something that rises to the “I should say something” level of concern, call Ada County non-emergency dispatch at 208-377-6790. Our dispatchers will connect you with the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction. If you prefer email, send a message to acsofeedback@adaweb.net.

You can also stop by our main office at 7200 Barrister Drive in Boise, which has someone at the front window 24 hours a day. If you live in Eagle, stop by our office at 1119 S. State St., Suite 260. In Kuna, the police substation is at 1450 Boise St. In Star, the substation is at 10769 W. State St.

In the end, it’s all about voice. We need to create a safe environment in our classrooms and homes so kids feel OK about using their voices, and we need to listen — and act when necessary.

Steve Bartlett is the sheriff of Ada County.

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