A central Minnesota school district where two students died in a school shooting nearly two decades ago is again facing questions about how district leaders protect students from bullying and threats of violence.
On Wednesday, the ROCORI School Board released a statement on the matter after a mother addressed the board Monday, alleging the school failed to protect her 12-year-old son from bullying and explicit death threats.
In an emotional testimony, the woman said her life changed on Thursday, May 26 when a parent discovered a group chat targeting the woman's son on a school computer — in the messages, a group of sixth graders had allegedly made a threat to hunt down her son, shoot him in the neck and watch him die.
"An imagine was burned into my mind that day that will never go away," she told the board.
The woman said she immediately contacted dozens of school officials, but district policy prohibited her from being informed of the consequences.
"But I was made aware that one of them would be in a class with my son if I sent him back to enjoy his last few days of the school year," she said.
"Why was I alone in a community that had great heartache for this exact reason before?" she questioned.
In a public statement, ROCORI School Board Chair Jennifer Bohnsack said the district is unable to comment on student-specific matters because student data, including disciplinary records, are private under state and federal law.
"We understand this data restriction can be frustrating for parents and members of the public seeking specific details regarding other students or student-related situations," she stated.
"As to the inquiries being made about a particular incident recently involving School District students, the School District can say that in all instances, the relevant policies and procedures have been followed and situation has been promptly and appropriately addressed."
In an email to Bring Me The News, Bohnsack said she understands how her silence after the woman's testimony was perceived by the public.
However, she stated she did speak to the mother and offer support both during a phone call before the meeting and in-person afterwards.
Read the full ROCORI School Board statement here:
Police are aware of the incident and are investigating, according to Cold Springs Police Chief Jason Blum.
Past violence, threats at ROCORI schools
The incident recently brought to light follows a history of allegations against the ROCORI School District.
In 2003, a ROCORI High School freshman murdered two classmates in school shooting. Parents of the victims filed a lawsuit against the district and received a $200,000 settlement.
In 2011, the district again faced scrutiny for its handling of safety matters after a 13-year-old student pointed a loaded gun at another student at school. Police were not immediately contacted and there was no lockdown triggered, according to CBS News.
Last year, authorities arrested a ROCORI School student in connection with threats on social media.
The district is also the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by a Cold Spring family who claims the district failed to respond to acts of racial harassment and discrimination, the St. Cloud Times reports.