A second-grade pupil brought a knife to Washington Elementary School on at least two days last week before it was taken from him, according to the principal and parents.
Principal Anthony Bonds wrote in an email Friday to parents that the knife was immediately confiscated at the start of the school day last Thursday, that he immediately undertook an investigation and that appropriate disciplinary measures were taken.
But a number of parents are upset by the way the situation was handled, and some questioned Bonds' version of events.
To begin with, several parents said that their children and other children were aware their schoolmate had the knife with him in school on Wednesday, and at least one parent said she alerted school officials that afternoon.
They also said that children told them they had been threatened by the second-grader.
Some also dispute that the knife was found and taken away "immediately ... at the start of the school day" on Thursday. Several parents who contacted Wauwatosa Patch or posted comments on Facebook said that the knife was not found until the lunch period.
Bonds has not responded to a phone request for comment and clarification left on Tuesday.
Parents were also upset that Bonds' first email acknowledging the incident was not sent to parents until late Friday, after a number of them had already called the school with their concerns for their children's safety, and several said they believed that with the heightened focus on school safety, they should have been informed immediately.
In a second, longer email sent at mid-day Tuesday, Bonds wrote, in part:
"As you are aware, a small pocketknife was confiscated on Thursday. It was given to school staff without incident — no one was being threatened and no one was injured. Since Thursday morning, I have been coordinating efforts with district administration. We are following district guidelines and taking matters seriously. And, rest assure that if there was a major incident or some imminent danger, parents would have been/will be notified the day of the incident."
Bonds also denied that any threats were made by the second-grader and that any students had reported that the student had a knife. He did, however, acknowledge that "a couple of students may have known about the pocketknife on Wednesday."
But the same parents were no more satisfied with that response because it seemed to them to belittle the incident as minor, while they considered it more serious.
They did not believe their children were exaggerating or fabricating their reports of threats, and still said that a fuller account would have been more comforting had it come much sooner.
They also noted that no mention was made of whether police were called to investigate. No police report was noted for Thursday or Friday when Wauwatosa Patch last checked records.
The Wauwatosa School District does not comment on disciplinary actions against students.
Bonds, in his second email, outlined these actions the school was taking in light of the incident:
Moving forward –
1. Empowering Students – One day this week, every classroom teacher will hold a class discussion about school safety. We want to encourage students to tell an adult if they see something dangerous (i.e. broken glass) or see a student doing something dangerous (i.e. has a weapon). Conversations will be tailored, making sure not to alarm students or making them unnecessarily nervous about school safety.
2. Being Proactive/Responding – At Washington, we strive to create a positive environment. We provide our students with many lessons on respect, responsibility, safety and bullying. As a staff, we will discuss ways to become more proactive and responsive when a student reports teasing or taunting.
Bonds also urged parents to discuss school safety with their children and to always encourage them to tell an adult should they see something unsafe.
He concluded, "rest assure (sic) that if there was a major incident or some imminent danger, parents would have been/will be notified the day of the incident. Your child's safety is my top priority."