Some parents are threatening to pull their children out of Jones Dairy Elementary School if it doesn’t become the first Wake County elementary school to have a permanent armed officer on campus.
The Wake County school system has been paying for an off-duty sheriff’s deputy to temporarily patrol Jones Dairy in Wake Forest since a man was arrested in September on charges of threatening to shoot the students. Some parents took their case to county leaders this week, demanding that more security upgrades be made at the school, including making the armed officer a permanent feature.
The parents also want upgrades such as improved locks on classroom doors and a double-entry vestibule that’s typically installed in new schools as a security measure.
“We’re serious about this and if we don’t get it, we’re going to start pulling our children from one of the best schools I’ve ever been a part of,” Kaitlin Atkin, a Jones Dairy parent, said at Tuesday’s school board meeting.
High schools and middle schools in Wake County have armed officers, called school resource officers. But Wake doesn’t have any school resource officers at elementary schools. It only paid for the officer at Jones Dairy because of the recent threats.
Arthur Vladimir Kochetkov, 33, of Wake Forest, was arrested Sept. 17 on charges of communicating threats on Facebook against students at Jones Dairy Elementary and of making a false report concerning mass violence on educational property. He lives in his mother’s home, which is next to the school.
Court records show that Kochetkov is accused of posting on Facebook multiple times about shooting schools and students. He is being held at the Wake County jail on a $200,000 secured bond.
Kochetkov’s family says he’s mentally ill and not a danger to act on those threats. But parents are worried, with Atkin telling the school board about how staff keep their eye on Kochetkov while the children are outside at recess. The school has suspended use of its playground.
“Jones Dairy Elementary School’s children have been threatened with their lives,” Atkin said. “I’m terrified to send my two kids to be potentially slaughtered.”
School leaders have told parents that the county would have to provide the money to make the armed officer permanent. Some parents and David Blackwelder, a Republican candidate for commissioner, asked the Wake County Board of Commissioners on Monday to do something about security at Jones Dairy.
The county has not received a request from the school board or the superintendent for additional funds to address this issue, said Wake County Manager David Ellis.
Wake County Commissioner chairwoman Jessica Holmes emphasized that the parents had been heard, but that the county could not reallocate funds within the school system’s budget.
“Should there be a specific request for funds related to school safety, we stand ready as a board to hear and consider that request,” she said. “In the meantime, I know the school system is taking these threats very seriously.”
Based on the response, parents asked the school board Tuesday to request the money. They stressed the need for urgency because Kochetkov is charged with a felony that would have a jail sentence of less than a year.
“For Jones Dairy, there is a target on this school,” Nick Pione, a parent, told the school board. “Whether it’s from the person that’s incarcerated now or whether in the world we live in today somebody has latched on to that same fantasy, I don’t know.
“But Jones Dairy is a target, and the clock is ticking.”
Thomas Walker was among the Jones Dairy parents who said they want to know soon what the school board will do so they can decide if they should stay at the school. Walker cited how his son, a third-grade student, asked if people ever break out of jail.
“For him it’s the unknown and for us, the parents, we’re scared as well,” Walker said. “Just communicate a plan, a timeline for a decision.”
It’s unclear whether the school board will ask for the money. It could cause families at Wake’s 114 other elementary schools, even ones that haven’t been threatened, to ask for the same kind of security.
“We would never go to the commissioners without our full board having a conversation,” school board chairwoman Monika Johnson-Hostler told reporters on Tuesday. “I mean, that’s our process, which I just explained to the parents, so there hasn’t been a request because our board hasn’t met.”