Parents of students attending Kohler Schools received an email from Principal Nick DeBaker on December 12 informing them that the administration had become aware of a verbal threat made by a student.
The email stated that law enforcement was immediately contacted, and school administrators worked with police to determine that the threat was not in any way credible. The principal assured parents that the school views any threat as serious, will not be tolerated, and could result in serious repercussions. DeBaker said appropriate action was being taken in the matter.
Questions still remain, including what the confirmed nature of the threat was, whether the student was serious or joking, whether the student had access to a gun, and what kind of repercussions the student will face from the school and legal system.
Several tips to The Kohler Villager indicated that the treat was to shoot up the school. An open records request by The Kohler Villager for the police report from the Kohler Police Department was denied, citing a pending investigation. It was suggested by Kohler Police Chief Shawn Splivalo that The Kohler Villager work with school’s principal regarding any further questions. The Kohler Villager then contacted the principal asking if he could say what the threat was, and what grade the student was in, but the principal stated that the school is legally prohibited from sharing specifics in regards to minors. When asked if the investigation had been wrapped up, the principal stated that it had.
Later, Chief Splivalo issued a press release to area media basically reiterating what was in the principal’s email to parents, adding that the student was a 13-year-old Kohler student and was referred to juvenile intake.
Numerous school threats have been reported around the state in recent weeks, and still continue. As of December 3, there were threats at eight Wisconsin high schools in three days, including two shootings – one in Waukesha and one in Oshkosh.
Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul has had enough and called for legislation that would expand the types of charges someone can face for making a threat. Under current law, a gun threat against a school is not considered a felony unless it’s considered a terrorist threat. Kaul told a Madison reporter that each case is based on the severity of the threat, but most of the time students can face misdemeanors. On the same day that Kohler parents received the principal’s email, an 18-year-old Sheboygan North High School student was charged with making a terrorist threat, a felony that can result in up to three-and-a-half years in prison.
Lawmakers have introduced legislation to give harsher penalties, but the proposal has faced opposition as some believe a felony is too harsh for minors who might not understand the severity of the threat they make. Meanwhile, the number of threats around the nation and in Wisconsin continue to rise.