Jaffrey-Rindge school community wants answers

  • John Stone, a former Rindge Memorial School principal, tells the School Board district faculty need to be more informed about district events, even those that don’t take place at their schools.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Trevor Pierce, a Conant High School student, reads a prepared statement about the atmosphere of the high school, which he said needs to change.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Lt. Todd Muilenberg of the Jaffrey police assures parents that the school is safe. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Peter Chamberlain scolds the School Board on their poor communication to parents and community members.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Monday’s School Board meeting was crammed with more than 50 people, most of whom were there to talk about an alleged threat made by a student toward another student or students.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/22/2019 10:55:29 AM

During a Jaffrey-Rindge School Board meeting Monday night, parents and students demanded quicker, more transparent communication from the district, after what several said was the botched notification to the school community of an alleged threat made by a Conant High School student against a fellow student last week.

“You really look bad today,” Jaffrey resident Peter Chamberlain said during a School Board meeting Monday. “You guys dropped the ball big time.”

Jaffrey Police Lt. Todd Muilenberg assured parents police would be present during the day for the rest of the week, as a precaution and to ease parent’s minds, but said there was no wide-spread threat to the school.

The alleged threat, he said, was issued to individuals, and there is no evidence the student made a general threat against the school or random students. The student who allegedly made the threat has not been in school this week, and police are “monitoring” the student, who has been cooperative, he said.

Police have previously confirmed the threat is believed to be connected to an incident on Tuesday, May 14, which involved both an ambulance and police presence at the Middle/High School.

During a community session held at Conant Tuesday night, Jennifer Pepin of Jaffrey stood and said it was her son, a Conant junior, who was threatened by another male Conant student last week.

“I felt like the parents were up in arms. They didn’t know what was really going on,” Pepin said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

Pepin said she understands there is a police investigation going on, but said: “The parents needed to know the truth.”

Pepin said last Tuesday her son had been attending a class off-campus when he returned to learn that a close family friend of his had overdosed. Pepin said the girl, took a few hits off a Juul (a vape pen), believing that she was vaping nicotine, but it was actually a drug called DMT, Pepin said. According to medicalnewstoday.com, “DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) is a hallucinogenic tryptamine drug that occurs naturally in many plants and animals. It is also referred to as the ‘spirit molecule’ due to the intense psychedelic experience.”

Although she overdosed, she’s OK, Pepin said. However, when her son learned about what happened, he went straight to school officials and police, who were still on campus following the overdose.

“He knew who the drug supplier was,” Pepin said. “My son did the right thing. … Thank God she’s alive and I feel that my son did the right thing.”

Saturday morning Pepin said they were contacted my Jaffrey police. The student her son had identified as a drug dealer had told other students he planned to kill her son with a gun at school on Monday. Pepin said police learned this from parents who said the alledged drug dealer had said this to other students.

Pepin said Jaffrey police have been “amazing” and provided police protection at the prom at Hidden Hills in Rindge Saturday night. Pepin said the student who made the threat should be expelled.

Monday night, several parents asked the school board if the person who made the threat would be back in school the next day. The board answered no.

School Board Chair Laurel McKenzie said generally, severe offenses can result in a 10-day suspension from the principal, which can be extended a further 10 days by the superintendent. The board also has the right to expel students.

One parent asked if the investigation revealed a viable threat, against one student or the student body, if the board would expel the student.

“I for one would vote that way, but it’s a whole board decision,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie’s comment was echoed by several other members of the board.

Call for better communication

Superintendent Reuben Duncan apologized to parents for late notification of the alleged threat, which went out to parents on Sunday night, after he was notified of the threat on Saturday. He told parents he had attempted to send an email earlier in the day on Sunday, but there was a technical glitch and it didn’t go out.

Several parents requested that in the future, the district use its robo-call system to notify them of safety issues, and said delays and vague information only spurred rumors and speculation.

“There’s no excuse for not using it,” said Eric Fisk of Rindge.

Alyssia Maki, a student at Jaffrey-Rindge, said students need to be informed as well. She said there needed to be better information not only about the threat, which occurred over the weekend, but the inciting incident on Tuesday, which also generated rumors and scared the students.

“I heard someone say someone overdosed in the bathroom, and I walk outside and I hear a different story,” Maki said. “I understand the need for privacy, but by being so intentionally vague, you leave the door open for the rumor mill to start spiraling. We need to be able to have facts when we talk to our friends.”

John Stone of Jaffrey, a former principal in the district, questioned when the elementary school teachers and parents had been notified. He was told they were not notified until Monday, after or during student arrival. Speaking as a former administrator, he said it became harder to do his job when there wasn’t communication.

“I hope the word getting tattooed on your forehead is ‘communication’,” said John Brown of Jaffrey.

The board and superintendent agreed to hold a school-wide assembly on Tuesday morning for students and parents, with a follow-up public forum on Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m., held at the high school, for residents and students to continue to voice concerns or learn information.

Parents request school resource officer

Several parents requested the district re-look at employing a school resource officer, a position the district once had.

The district ended the position in 2013, after having a resource officer for three years.

Rick Martin of Rindge was one of those who said bringing back the resource officer was a good idea and suggested there were ways to fund the position, such as grants.

“It’s looking at creative ways to fund this important position,” he said.

Meghan Pierce contributed to this story.

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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