A seven-year-old girl has been receiving death threats from another student at Winlock Miller Elementary School and administrators say they have yet to determine who the offender is.
Parent Brandy Peppers told the Winlock School District Board Wednesday night her daughter Kiay began receiving threats "out of the blue" two months ago, despite Kiya’s tendency to keep to herself. The first threat stated, "I will kill you," and subsequent messages have been as violent and increasingly profane.
"She doesn’t feel safe," said Peppers to the board, "and I’m like, ‘What do I do?’ I don’t know what to do."
The threats have come in the form of notes left on paper, pencils and erasers, which the offender either leaves on Kiya’s desk or nearby where she can find them. The most recent note came March 18 stating "F--- you" written on a pencil Kiya picked up off the floor next to her desk, stated Peppers.
She said Kiya has been refusing to attend recess and eats lunch in her classroom, and can become physically ill at the notion of going back to school. Peppers added she has recently been taking time off work in the afternoon to sit in on Kiya’s class and has even offered to buy security cameras for the school if it will help find the offender.
"I’m about ready to take both of my kids out of Winlock, because it’s too much," said Peppers, adding Kiya’s teacher Renee Bottoms has been very proactive in handling the situation. "Mrs. Bottoms has done everything. The only reason my daughter is still in this school is because of Mrs. Bottoms."
Bottoms said there was a time when other students received threats as well, but they came when Kiya was not in class due to her feeling too ill to attend.
"There have been a few incidences where other children have received similar threats, more as, ‘I hate you,’" she said, "but the death threats have been to Kiya."
Elementary School Principal Jim Swan said administrators have been taking steps to identify the offender but have either found dead ends or a lack of information from the children.
"We had a student in there take responsibility in February and then that student moved away," said Swan. "There was about a two-week period where it stopped, and then it started up again."
He added, "It’s been extremely frustrating and I take personal responsibility, because I’m responsible for the building."
The School Board said they were taking Kiya’s plight seriously, with Board Member Duane Bryant stating the district exercises a no-tolerance approach to such harassment.
Board Chair Fred Terry said, though it may be difficult to imagine a young child acting with such intentional cruelty, a student capable of these acts may be in distress as much as their victim.
"The child that’s able to do that, it needs as much help as the one that’s being harassed," said Terry, assuring Peppers the district will pursue a solution to the problem. "We’ll try to get some resolve and get to you as soon as possible."
As of press time, there has been no statement from officials indicating their response to the Peppers’ complaint, though other schools in the district have held assemblies in reaction to harassment and intimidation among students.
The Winlock Police Department has since been made aware of the harassment and Police Chief Terry Williams said there will likely be grounds for an arrest once a suspect is found.