Montrose High copes with attack
In the seconds after the stabbing of a student at Montrose High School last week, students were rapidly text messaging each other, passing along crucial details in the case that investigators wouldn’t learn until later.
School officials want to harness that communication to prevent any future violence. They met with parents and teachers Monday night — nearly a week after a 14-year-old boy slit the throat of 17-year-old Mallory Haulman as she was heading to class.
“We need to make sure (troubled students) have a way out,” said Susan Payne, a special agent with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, during the gathering. Payne lectured the group of about 40 on a host of warning signs that youths may display before hurting themselves or others.
Payne touted the nonprofit Safe2Tell prevention program and hotline, which group members claim has kept 108 youths from committing suicide and interrupted numerous potential violent attacks in the planning stages.
Administrators and police said they have ramped up security at the school by locking some of the side doors and urging students not to let strangers inside. Montrose Police Chief Tom Chinn said the incident has prompted better collaboration between police and school officials.
Authorities have arrested a 14-year-old boy, who is not a student at the school, in connection with the attack, and have arrested another 14-year-old boy on suspicion of conspiracy. Neither has been formally charged.
Talk of the attack has hardly subsided, said junior Marcia Wanner.
Wanner said the school atmosphere is just starting to feel normal again, thanks in part to Haulman’s return to the school Monday.
“It just makes me realize it can happen here,” Wanner said.
Talk at Monday’s meeting did not address an initial outcry for metal detectors at the entry to the building that supports a student body of 1,400.
Don Davidson, whose son attends the school, said it’s important for students and staff to be aware of their surroundings.
“I think the vigilance is important,” he said. “It’s high now, then it goes down. We have to keep it up.”
Payne said it’s the responsibility of parents and school staff to recognize signs of troubled youth.
Triggers include a child who is bullied or a teen going through a break-up or who has become pregnant.
Students and staff are grasping for a motive for the Nov. 11 attack, but Payne said the safest place for students is in schools.
In the majority of incidents of school violence, the immediate actions of staff are the most instrumental in saving lives, she said.
Find information at safe2tell.org. Report suspicious activity or call in concern for a friend’s well-being through the hotline at 877-542-7233 (SAFE).