Dear RPS Families and Staff,
As most of you are aware by now, there was an incident in March at Richfield STEM Elementary School where a man approached two students and asked them to get into his car. Both students involved in the situation left immediately and notified school staff.
The report on KARE 11 and the police report filed by the Richfield Police Department lead you to believe that the school did not respond to the situation and was delayed in providing information to the officer in charge of the investigation. Here is the timeline of events:
- Monday, March 21: This incident occurred after school around 2-2:15 p.m. The students involved notified after school staff.
- Tuesday, March 22: Principal Winter was notified of the incident. She immediately contacted the students and spoke with them about the event and supported them in their actions. She also spoke with staff who were present the day before. Families of the students involved in the incident were contacted by school staff and Principal Winter called the Richfield Police Department. Because the incident was from the prior afternoon, she did not call 911. Instead, she called the non-emergency number. Our district phone logs have a record of her call at 12:25 p.m. She also contacted district leadership as well as other school leaders so that they could provide additional supervision outside their schools.
- Wednesday, March 23: The officer assigned to the case contacted the school. Principal Winter was not available at the time, so they spoke with another staff member.
- Thursday, March 24: Principal Winter followed up with the police officer in charge of the investigation and made her report.
- Monday, April 4: Surveillance footage was provided to the Richfield Police Department, which confirmed they had properly identified the suspect’s vehicle.
Following the incident, all supervisory staff at Richfield STEM Elementary were made aware of the situation and have been providing additional supervision during student arrival and dismissal. Student safety patrol officers received additional training in regards to approaching vehicles and requests from strangers.
In reviewing the incident and how it was handled, we have identified two areas of concern. First, the incident should have been reported to the principal and 911 should have been called immediately. Second, all district families should have been notified so that they could have been on the lookout and had conversations with their children about safety in the community.
Our district has a comprehensive safety plan, but a scenario like this is not included. We will be reviewing and updating our safety plan this summer.
As your superintendent, I want to apologize for the lack of communication with families. Responsibility for the decision of whether or not to message our community lands with the superintendent and I made the wrong call when advising Principal Winter. As superintendent, district leadership and communications are ultimately my responsibility. As a father myself, I know I would be angry and disappointed if there was a threat to my daughter’s safety and I wasn’t made aware of it.
I promise you that, moving forward, any incidents involving threats to student safety will be communicated quickly so that you can be aware of the situation and make any decisions you need to as a family to ensure your child remains safe. I will work in partnership with building principals and our leadership team, including our Director of Communications, on this.
The failure to communicate in this incident rests with me and poor communication leads to a lack of trust. It is our district’s responsibility and my responsibility for our improvement and the repair of trust.
Superintendent Steven Unowsky