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Garfield High School takes student threat more seriously than his teacher did

Seattle's Garfield High School plans to discuss how to handle threats of violence with students and staff when they return from break Monday. Seattle Police arrested a Garfield student before the break for threatening a mass shooting, a threat that his teacher had ignored weeks earlier, according to police reports.

A student reported a classmate's threats to carry out a mass shooting to the teacher of a statistics class where the two students sat next to each other.

In late January, the accused student "stated he would pull the school's fire alarm and wait for the students to exit the building; once the students made their way out to the field behind the school, he would begin shooting students," according to the police report. He also told a classmate who had criticized him for watching graphic videos in class of people dying that he would be at the top of the kill list.

"At the time I took it lightly, but deep down I was very scared," the threatened student told police.

Their teacher did not take the warning seriously, according to the police report. She "nervously laughed and disregarded the information that was given to her," the report states.

According to the report, the teacher resigned Feb. 16, the same day police arrested the student at his home. The police report did not state a reason for the resignation and said a school administrator said it took her by surprise.

Garfield principal Ted Howard notified families of the arrest by email on Feb. 20. He told them school officials immediately notified police of the threat.

He did not tell families that a teacher had ignored the student's initial warning.

"We are doing everything we can to create a safe environment in every classroom, every day," Howard's email to Garfield families said.

It was only because the student persisted in complaining that the threat became known a few weeks later.

"She is a good teacher," Garfield parent Luz Villasana said. "We all make mistakes."

Those mistakes can have deadly consequences: Federal and local authorities missed multiple red flags before a young man allegedly shot and killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, this month, according to media reports.

“Sometimes somebody absolutely slips through,” Broward County, Florida, mayor Beam Furr told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “and this is one of those times.”

"I wonder whether Seattle Public Schools has provided the teachers training or instructions or guidelines on how to proceed," Villasana said.

Seattle Public Schools officials did not respond to KUOW's interview requests.

Villasana said she fears for her daughter's safety, but not because she attends Garfield.

"I worry about every U.S. student, whether it's Garfield, or any other school in Seattle or Texas or California or Wyoming," she said. "We live in a time where hate prevails and access to guns prevail, and it’s just way too easy. Until we address those issues, I will fear for my kids, your kids and everyone else’s."

Garfield High School principal Ted Howard's letter to families:

Why you can trust KUOW