Elevated security to continue at Mountain Pointe High after threat

Posted: September 25, 2018 / Source: Ahwatukee Foothills News

Mountain Pointe High School students have been told to come to school a second day Tuesday without their backpacks as Phoenix Police continued to investigate a threat posted on social media.

The anonymous threat, together with a picture of a gun, was posted Sunday night, said Tempe Union High School District spokeswoman Jennifer Liewer.

"We have been in contact with Phoenix Police throughout the day who are investigating the matter. They have informed us they have developed strong investigative leads and are actively following up on them," Liewer said Monday afternoon. "Due to the on-going nature of this investigation, we will continue to enforce a non-backpack rule on campus."

She also asked parents not to "speculate about the police investigation, spread rumors about possible suspects, or make assumptions about this matter on social media," reminding them that the district is "committed to informing parents in an open and transparent manner, but we must respect the investigative process."

"Open communication with your child is critical and we are grateful for the collaborative and proactive efforts made by you to keep us informed on this issue," she added.

The district's early morning announcement also triggered a wave of concern among Kyrene parents even though that district's elementary and middle schools were never threatened.

Principals and the district emailed parents to assure them the schools were safe and that they had double-checked all doors and took other precautions early Monday.

Liewer said the new threat was the second in a week made on social media involving Mountain Pointe, although she added that the two appeared unrelated – especially since the student who made last week’s threat was arrested.

 School was to remain open today but teachers were instructed to not penalize students who are absent.

“Should parents want to keep their children home, absences will be excused,” Liewer said, adding parents should simply act the absence line to report the absence as they normally do.

“We are asking students who come to school to leave their backpacks at home,” Liwer said, adding that backpacks would be searched.

Liewer said it was likely that some students needed to bring backpacks because of after-school sports or other extracurricular activities and that any student who brings a backpack to school would get it back once it was inspected.

Girls were told to bring small or clear purses and all students also were reminded to bring their IDs.                                                                                        

Phoenix Police also will have extra officers on campus and district will also assign additional security, Liewer said.

“We wish we had more answers for you at this time, however, information about the post is limited,” she added.

Last week’s threat was apparently disclosed to parents via a closed messenging system that non-parents cannot sign up for.

District officials over the summer took measures to improve security at Mountain Pointe after some parents expressed concern at a school board meeting about the multiple accesses to the building.

The improvements basically limited access-exit to the building to one entry.

During a forum sponsored by the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce in July, Tempe Union Superintendent Kevin Mendivil said Mountain Pointe’s relatively older architectural design made it “an accident waiting to happen.”

Praising the work and experience of the district’s head of security, retired Mesa Police Chief John Meza, Mendivil said, the district gave Mountain Pointe special scrutiny over the summer break “to find all the soft spots.”

“We have ensured that all our sites have one access point,” he added, disclosing that Meza also has worked out an agreement with Phoenix Police to ensure that a police officer will be on both Ahwatukee high school campuses Monday through Friday. For some inexplicable reason, Mendivil said, police had only been visiting the campuses Monday through Thursday.

He also praised Kyrene School District’s extensive use of closed-circuit cameras at all its 25 campuses, saying, “We’re doing now what Kyrene is doing” and that the district has a room filled with monitors surveilling all seven Tempe Union campuses 24/7.

“I’m really adamant about ensuring our kids’ safety,” said Mendivil. “I think we can do more and we’ll be exploring what we can do more of.” 

One security concern on his radar is examining Tempe Union’s security guard force.

Although he said guards are “wonderful, caring people,” he added, “I’m not happy with the candidates or job description” for security guards.

He said the district would be implementing a tougher training session so guards are more prepared for the kinds of situations that have led to mass violence at other high schools in the country.

If the training doesn’t bring those guards up to the level of performance he and Meza think is needed, they’ll be shown the door.

Read full story at http://www.ahwatukee.com/news/article_5011001a-bffd-11e8-9b9b-dbfe258ee61f.html
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