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Threats disturb schools, parents

ROGUE RIVER ' A fifth threat of school violence left on a home answering machine resulted in a decision to close the entire district down on Wednesday.

Whether the threats are serious or simply misguided youthful pranks, parents, teachers and administrators say they are determined to find a way to terminate the terrorizing.

The volcano keeps bubbling up, said Michele Wolf, principal of Evans Valley and Rogue River elementary schools. Something has to be enough of a deterrent to let these kids know this is not acceptable.

— The district's four schools are open again today, but the two elementary schools will be in code red lockdown, said Wolf.

There will be no recesses. Nobody will be playing outside, said Wolf.

Wolf heard Tuesday's threat left on a message machine of parents with children in the district. The caller threatened to kill students in an expletive-filled, whispered message.

I was really upset by it, said Wolf. It was scary to hear the tone. I felt it was a school-closure issue.

Jackson County Sheriff's Deputy Chris Sorensen said the phone message was different from the other threats, which were penned on bathroom walls at each of the four schools.

Sorensen described the voice as whispery, copy-cat and probably the voice of an 11- to 16-year-old male.

However, he said the threat was full of inaccurate statements.

This kid said he was the one who made the threat at Evans Valley. That was an 8-year-old girl, said Sorensen.

He said the caller could be someone not living in the district.

This (the investigation) could take awhile, Sorensen said. There was no caller ID and the phone company wants a subpoena before they'll even tell us if they can find the caller's phone number.

In the two other cases Sorensen investigated ' at the high school and Evans Valley Elementary School ' he said the children who reported the threats had made them and quickly confessed once confronted.

This may be a tougher kid to crack, said Sorensen.

None of the threats have resulted in violence and no weapons have been found, police said. At least two of the threats were known copycats, but Rogue River Police Chief Ken Lewis said each threat needs to be taken seriously.

Everyone can have an opinion, but you can never really be certain until you find the person responsible and then try to get inside their head, he said.

Superintendent Charles Hellman is continuing to ask for any information that could lead to the identity of the caller.

We have a responsible student body. These are the incidents of a few individuals and do not overshadow the positive behavior at the schools, said Hellman.

Hellman said most parents were supportive of the school closure.

Sara Angeletti, parent and site-council member, said she was pleased to get a call from Hellman Tuesday evening and supported the one-day closure.

Angeletti said she and her family are friends of the family who received the threatening call. Her daughter plays with their daughter, she said.

Finding the right words to explain the situation to her second-grade daughter was a challenge, she said.

She woke up to hearing there was no school. I had to tell her there was another threat, said Angeletti. I didn't want to tell her it was directed towards one of her friends.

Angeletti said while the anxiety level for the children and the parents is high, the community needs to remain calm while seeking answers.

The community needs to get involved above and beyond being horrified, said Angeletti.

Children and the scourge of violence: It's time to talk

As anxiety and frustration mount over threats in the Rogue River School District, some parents are calling for more punitive measures both at school and at home.

District policy is an automatic 10-day suspension with an expulsion hearing. The students also will face Class B misdemeanor criminal charges in the juvenile court system.

Some community members are calling for the return of corporal punishment in the schools, but school counselor Tonya Tchestnykh says violence only begets violence.

She offers parents of all students some advice in keeping communication helpful and effective during this difficult time:

Parents need to make sure their own emotions are under control before talking to their children. Take a tub, walk, or vent before you talk to your kids, Tchestnykh says.

Parents need to let their children know there are serious consequences for this type of prank but that they have faith in their children's ability to make responsible choices.

Don't start a conversation on the offensive attack mode. Invite exploring questions and a child will hear and listen, she says.

Parents need to let their children know they are safe and that the adults in their life are there to protect them.

Be careful about what kids are overhearing you say on the phone or talking to a friend, Tchestnykh says. Fragments of conversations can be very frightening to a child.

Parents need to give age-appropriate information to their children and limit images of violence in the home.

How old is my child? What can they understand? Be careful of what information and images they have access to, says Tchestnykh.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail .