Following the Sunday arrest of a student accused of making the latest of three unrelated threats against the school, Horace Good Middle School moved forward with a normal schedule, and this time, students showed up.
The Garden City Police Department received a report of a statement on a social media account at 12:22 p.m. Sunday, said Garden City police Sgt. Lana Urteaga. The statement was a violent threat perceived as a threat against the school, but it did not actually mention HGMS, she said. A Sunday press release from the police said the statement was “meant to scare students and staff” at the school.
Later Sunday, police arrested Nick Trung Hang, 14, an eighth-grader who previously attended HGMS. Hang is being held at the Southwest Kansas Juvenile Detention Center on an allegation of criminal threat.
Since April 17, police have investigated three social media posts perceived to be threats against the school. After parents were notified of the second threat on April 22, about two-thirds of students, or more than 460, were absent. Of those, 130 were out of town for a track meet.
Monday, after parents received news of a third perceived threat and subsequent arrest, only 24 students were absent, said Garden City USD 457 Public Information Officer Roy Cessna. There was an increased law enforcement presence at the school for about two hours in the morning, Urteaga said.
HGMS teacher Autumn Perry said the environment at the school Monday was different and calmer compared to last week, in part because the person accused of making the threat was in custody before students came to school.
On Thursday, teachers at HGMS reviewed “digital citizenship” during students’ mentoring periods, reviewing how to safely navigate social media and details of the punishments, both at the district and law enforcement levels, for posting or sharing something that could be perceived as dangerous or a threat. The emphasis was the importance of being safe online, and many students were receptive, said HGMS teacher Shannon Oakley.
On Monday, Youth Services and the Finney County Attorney came to the school as part of an already scheduled event, where they took the opportunity to reiterate the lessons, Cessna said.
Sunday’s incident is the third threat connected to HGMS made on social media within the past two weeks.
On April 17, police were notified of a general violent threat made on social media against the school that included a picture of firearms. The next day, police requested that the Finney County Attorney’s Office file charges of aggravated criminal threat and criminal false communication against a 14-year-old male HGMS student identified as a suspect but no arrest has been made. Police searched the student’s house and found evidence related to the threat, but declined to describe what was found.
Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier did not return calls seeking comment on whether her office had determiend whether it was going to file charges against the 14-year-old.
On April 22, another violent threat against the school planned for April 23 was made on a separate, anonymous social media platform. Police arrested HGMS student Mariela Galvez, 15, in connection to the post on an allegation of aggravated criminal threat. Police said Galvez created the threat in an attempt to get out of school on April 23 and was not connected to the April 17 case.
Urteaga said that Hang’s case is also not connected to either of the threats before it, and that neither Galvez and Hang nor their residences were searched prior to an arrest. Each case is different, dependent on factors that include the suspect or their parents’ cooperation, and it at officers' discretion whether to arrest a suspect, she said.
USD 457 has stated that all three students accused of making the threats have been found to have committed Level Four infractions per district policy, which calls for an immediate 10-day out of school suspension and a potential 186-day expulsion equal to one school year.