A mother outraged about an incident that incited her daughter to call 911 during school is challenging Federal Way Public Schools to look deeper at how they handle safety and emergency situations.
However, the Kent Police Department’s ensuing investigation determined that the incident between two students last Friday did not pose a threat to Totem Middle School, according to Federal Way Public Schools officials.
After the incident at the school between her daughter and another student, Erica Bogdan took to social media and also spoke at Tuesday’s school board meeting about the situation.
She said the incident began when Bogdan answered an incoming phone call from her daughter last Friday.
“Help me,” were the first words she heard, Bogdan told the Mirror.
She said her daughter was in the counselor’s office at Totem, solving a disagreement with another student when the student allegedy became upset and left the office. Upon returning to the office, the student allegedly tried to attack Bogdan’s daughter, she said.
“Physically removing the student from the room, [staff] locked my daughter inside for her safety,” Bogdan claims. “She was in this room for half an hour, alone, where she was petrified and called me frantically.”
Bogdan said her daughter recalls hearing the student yell at the adult staff, saying, “I have two people on my kill list already and you don’t want to be another one.”
Her daughter then called 911, as the student allegedly continued to bang on the door to get into the room, she said.
“I got a phone call from my daughter that is something I hope no parent ever has to go through,” Bogdan said, noting the fear in her daughter’s voice. “No mother should ever have to hear a phone call, like I did, from their child that is scared to death at school.”
The Kent Police Department responded and determined it was not an emergency situation, said Kassie Swenson, chief of communications for the Federal Way school district, in an email to the Mirror. They also did not find any evidence of a kill list. According to Kent Police assistant chief Jarod Kasner, the student who allegedly made the verbal threats admitted in a police investigation interview that the threats were said out of anger and the student said there is no list of any type.
Swenson noted the school immediately responded to the situation and consequences were given accordingly.
At the school board meeting, Bogan called upon the school board to re-evaluate the policies and procedures of extreme bullying, threatening, and emergency cases within schools.
“How does this constitute a safe environment?” she asked the board at Tuesday night’s meeting.
FWPS officials adamantly state there is no evidence to support some of Bogdan’s claims in her social media post.
“The Kent Police Department investigated and found there is no list indicating a threat to our school campus, as described in the social media post,” wrote Swenson in an email.
“After the school day on Friday, Sept. 21, the district’s social media account received a message from an individual that referenced an incident at school involving two students and alleged there was a potential threat to the school,” Swenson stated. “Because we take any and all threats seriously, we immediately contacted our Safety and Security Department and reached out to Kent Police Department to thoroughly investigate.”
The Kent Police Department conducted an investigation on Sept. 22, and letters addressing the rumors and state of the situation were sent by Caitlin Boline, Totem’s interim principal, to Totem Middle School parents, teachers, and staff on Sunday, Sept. 23.
Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell refuted the alleged inaccuracies of the social media post at the board meeting on Tuesday night at Decatur High School.
“They immediately had law enforcement to go to check on … whether or not there was a kill list,” Campbell said. “There was no kill list. You’re saying it’s in [the student’s] head, but the point is, there was nothing there that we could verify.”
The school district has policies and discipline actions in place to correct these types of behaviors before they become hardwired, rather than arbitrarily expel students — individuals of which are protected by law to avoid unconstituted expulsion, Campbell said.
“It may feel like nothing happened because we can’t tell you what happened because of their privacy rights. And if we break those rights, then we find ourselves on the wrong side of things,” Campbell said. “But under no circumstance would any principal in any of our 38 schools not issue consequences for unsafe behaviors.”
The strategy of using social media paints a one-sided narrative of a situation, Campbell said, adding that “the school acted exactly as it should have.”
Campbell also shared her sympathies with Bogdan, as Bogdan broke down in tears while seated in the crowd.
“I want to tell you as a mom, there is nothing that makes your heart beat more than thinking somehow that person you’ve given birth to or that you have brought into your life in other ways, could be harmed,” said Campbell.
Totem interim principal Boline also commented on the situation at Tuesday’s meeting.
“No threats were made verbally to either of these two students and no students were physically harmed,” Boline said. “I was asked to ensure, immediately after the incident, that one of the students would be expelled. As we had yet to conduct an investigation, I was unable to confirm, nor would I have shared, as disciplinary action is held confidentially. Following the incident, we subsequently met and spoke to parents of both children.”
Kent police determined that there was and is no direct threat to the school, and that there was no evidence of a kill list nor was there evidence there ever was one, Boline said.
On social media, Bogdan’s original post spread like wildfire and also mentioned Totem Middle School went into lockdown last year due to the student’s actions. The district was unable to confirm this statement due to student privacy laws.
“I can’t stand by and be a person that watches a tragedy happen and not have done something to try and change the way the system works in this situation,” Bogdan said.
On Wednesday morning, Bogdan and her daughter devised a safety plan with school officials for the oncoming weeks to ensure protection of both students while at Totem.
Bogdan said she is pleased with how the board meeting went because of the willingness from all sides to create positive outcomes, evident in the district’s response from Swenson:
“We communicate with families of affected parties to put a plan in place to ensure safety of our students,” she wrote. “If a student is experiencing bullying or any other safety issue, we ask that the student or parent contact their school.”
“We do not allow unsafe behaviors at our schools,” Swenson wrote. “Also, there is no place for harassment, intimidation or bullying at any of our schools. We have systems in place and effective staff to address HIB or other safety concerns, and we take these matters very seriously.”
It is the responsibility of everyone – students, staff, parents and community – to teach children of all ages how to be positive, productive members of society both inside and outside of the classroom by establishing and supporting high expectations for behaviors, Swenson continued on behalf of the district.
Safety escorts have been assigned for both students, and Bogdan said she will continue to proactively work at the administrative, district, and state levels for mental health advocacy among students and for policy changes to be made in regards to emergency and bullying situations.
Bogdan plans to work with school officials to create a positive school environment through art and help implement more mentorship programs, because awareness is just as important as prevention of dangerous behaviors, she said.
“I know that their hands are tied as far as expulsion, but I’m here to be a voice,” Bogdan said. “I’m still going to go fight for these kids … ”