On Friday, Nov. 30, all three schools in Eatonville spent much of the day in a “modified lockdown” after students notified staff of a threatening post making the rounds on a popular social media site. 

While a subsequent investigation revealed that the threat most likely originated from outside the area, “and at no time were any of (the) students or staff in any immediate danger,” according to School District Superintendent Krestin Bahr as stated in a letter she sent to parents, administrators were unwilling to take any chances.

“We should err on the side of caution,” said Executive Director of Innovation and Learning Michael Farmer.

He noted that this is particularly true in the wake of the school shooting in Las Vegas on Sept. 11, the Parkland, Florida shooting on Feb. 14 and other mass shootings at schools.

“The Eatonville School District has a primary responsibility to ensure the safety of students and staff inside school buildings and while on school property,” Bahr’s letter stated, calling the lockdowns a “necessary precaution.”

Farmer and Bahr were frank in acknowledging the many challenges as well as opportunities afforded by the fact that large numbers of students now carry smart phones as near-constant companions, both in and out of school.

While it’s not particularly an issue in elementary school, by the time students enter middle school and begin taking part in more extra-curricular activities, many parents feel more assured knowing they can easily get in contact with their children at the press of button, Farmer and Bahr explained.

“It’s a different world than when we were growing up,” Farmer remarked. “These kids have never known a world without smart phones. To them it’s just part of life.”

They went on to describe how as administrators, they try to strike a balance between “having the knowledge of the world at your fingertips,” and having an endless source of possible distraction and mischief – all within the same device.

In the case of Friday’s incident, it’s believed the source was a minor dispute between an Eatonville student and another student living elsewhere in the country (or perhaps, world), which arose through their interactions in the online, first-person shooter game “Fortnite.”

Fortnite is a popular, cartoonish video game, which pits players around the world against each other in a one-winner takes all free-for-all.  The game has an estimated 45 million players online.

Asked what parents can do to help keep their children safe, Farmer’s advice was straightforward.

“Talk to your kids,” he said. “Know what they’re doing online.”

Bahr was keen to stress the incident caused parents. Unlike many big cities, Eatonville has remained largely immune to serious incidents, threats and violence. She related how in a recent poll of students regarding such matters, when asked if they felt safe while at school, 100 percent of the students said yes.

She also noted the district’s excellent relationship with both the Eatonville Police Department and the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office.

For further questions regarding Friday’s incident, or what parents should do in the case of a partial or full school lockdown, contact school or district administrators.