Early June saw some anxious days for students, parents, and staff of École/Collège régional Gabrielle-Roy in Île-des-Chênes. It began on June 3 when a threatening note was found by a student in the early years student washroom and turned in to school staff.
On Monday, June 6, a 17-year-old male was arrested. He is awaiting an August court date on charges of uttering threats.
Sergeant Paul Manaigre, Media Relations Officer for the St. Pierre-Jolys RCMP detachment, says that the anonymous planted note, while somewhat vague in nature, led to concerns that an incident involving a knife or gun may be expected at the school on Monday, June 6.
Daniel Preteau is the Director of Student Services at Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine (DSFM), the school division overseeing Gabrielle-Roy. Preteau says that school staff acted quickly, contacting the RCMP and the division office immediately after the note was discovered.
“Threats are always taken seriously and we collaborate with RCMP to investigate the threat,” Preteau says. “We rely on our partnership with RCMP to determine the severity of the threat. We also collaborate with NACTATR [North American Center for Threat Assessment and Trauma Response] to guide us with the analysis of the threat/risk evaluation.”
Based on discussions with the RCMP, Preteau adds that the school staff activated a hold and secure response. This means that the threat was perceived to be external and not from within the school itself.
In a hold and secure, exterior doors are locked and no one is allowed to enter or leave the building. The school day continues as usual.
During this time, parents of students received an email through the School Messenger app informing them of the occurrence. As well, each child went home at the end of the school day with a letter. Both messages indicated the details that were known at the time and the fact that police presence would be expected at the school on Monday in order to ensure everyone’s safety.
The principal and vice-principal actively fielded many calls and emails from concerned parents that day.
Over the course of the weekend, RCMP officers worked together with the division to investigate the source of the note. On Monday morning, RCMP arrived at the school along with their Police Dog Services unit to conduct a thorough search of the property before students and staff were allowed to enter.
One Île-des-Chênes resident with children in Grades Six, Eight, and Nine at Gabrielle-Roy says that, to his mind, the substantial police presence with dogs at the school on Monday morning was more than a little off-putting for his kids.
The resident, who requested to remain anonymous, will be referred to as Joe.
Joe says that his kids were relatively nonchalant about the affair after Friday and agreed on a return to school as usual for Monday morning. Before the regular bus arrived, though, Joe received a phone call from the bus driver, querying whether a stop at his house would be needed.
The children boarded the bus and arrived to what they say felt like a school almost void of students. Before the first school bell had rung, Joe got a phone call from his oldest child requesting that they be picked up.
According to his 15-year-old son, each of the three kids had been subjected to a patdown search. The 15-year-old had been pulled aside for questioning.
Joe says it doesn’t help that his son already suffers from some level of anxiety on a regular basis. Being pulled aside, though, triggered an even greater anxiety reaction from his son, who later told his dad, “I knew at that point I was being interrogated.”
Joe says that he’s a big proponent of the RCMP and how they handled the situation to that point. But, he adds, with the number of police cars onsite and police presence with dogs, his kids were simply overwhelmed.
“Don’t make the 499 students who weren’t suspects feel like victims for going about their day after [you’ve] reasonably assessed the situation,” Joe says.
Preteau says that the division is proud of the Gabrielle-Roy staff for their leadership and dedication to the wellbeing of their students. Staff have been showing up early in the mornings to review daily safety plans and holding debrief sessions again at the end of each day.
“Following discussions with RCMP and NACTATR, both agreed that the school staff worked in unison and responded well to ensure a calm yet rigorous response,” says Preteau.
Sargent Manaigre says that the youth responsible for the threatening note is a student of Gabrielle-Roy. He has been conditionally released from custody until his court date. Manaigre is unable to comment on the nature of the conditions.
“We feel confident that the matter is being handled correctly,” says Manaigre.
Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen