Retired teacher Therese Pempek spoke on behalf of teachers and the administration at a Wrangell School Board meeting in March of 2018. (June Leffler/ KSTK)

Some Wrangell parents are questioning the school district’s commitment to safety and transparency. This comes in response to an incident in February that some see as threatening behavior.

A group of students made a video that is circulating in the community.It doesn’t show much, just a student sitting in a chair in the high school’s audio visual classroom. But the audio picks up a group of students questioning another student. And the students recording the conversation were concerned the other student was suggesting threats of violence.

So they took the video to the school administration and the police.

Plenty of parents saw it too, largely through Facebook. And some came to a recent school board meeting to express their concerns about the behavior and the school’s response.

Andrew Hoyt helped formed the group PAWSS or Parent Advocates for Wrangell Student Safety. He’s reading a letter to the school board.


“There were threats made by a student to bring explosives to the school and detonate them,” Hoyt says. “It’s somewhat disheartening to see that that incident was not reported in either the superintendent’s or school administrator’s report last month.”

Hoyt believes the threat wasn’t taken seriously enough by the district. Also, he says the incident was never disclosed to parents. And students who came forward with the video were reprimanded.

Grandparent Janelle Privett finishes reading the letter.

“Any student who may be involved has certain rights, that includes the threat-maker as well as the student who felt threatened enough to record the threats, voices and concerns. I believe these rights include the ability to have their case heard by means of executive session by the school board,” Privett says.

While the school board, the superintendent and the secondary principal were all in attendance, none addressed the parents’ concerns.

Principal Bill Schwan declined to comment on his administration’s handling of the incident. He did say the students who came forward with the video were not punished, and did not lose their audiovisual privileges.

Superintendent Patrick Mayer released this statement: “The police were immediately notified and the matter was investigated. The school district has appropriately dealt with it according to school disciplinary polices.”

Police Chief Doug McCloskey says the student’s behavior was inappropriate but not threating. He says the student suggested setting off firecrackers in school so that he wouldn’t have to go to school. The chief says in the same video the student says he didn’t want to harm anyone.

While the district did not give its reasons for not informing parents, retired teacher Therese Pempek spoke on behalf of teachers and the administration. She says confidentiality is paramount when working with youths.

“When situations come we have different people from many professions, entities in this community, that get together, they discuss, they come up with a plan,” Pempek says. and sometimes if the public asks we say sorry we cannot disclose some of this information.”

The Wrangell Teachers Association just supported a resolution to take safety more seriously. That includes more training and re-evaluating current safety policies, with the help of law enforcement and the community. School staff are also receiving active shooter training.