Verona student wrote essay about killing staff, student
Student no longer at Verona High School
A former Verona Area High School student wrote about killing teachers, administrators and one student in a creative writing assignment turned in last month. The author, who is no longer a student at the school, wrote about bringing a gun from his home on the final day of school and shooting those who had bullied or demeaned him in the past.
VIEW ESSAY [PDF]
VIEW POLICE REPORT [PDF]
Verona police did not charge the 17-year-old with a crime. He claimed the essay was fiction. Two guns found at his home belonging to his father have been turned over to police.
News 3 obtained a copy of the essay after Verona parents were alerted in a note home on Jan. 28 of a "threat directed to certain individuals in our high school." The letter did not release any details of the nature of the threat, but said, "A threat assessment was conducted and appropriate steps have been taken to ensure school safety."
VIEW LETTER TO PARENTS [PDF]
The former student is still a juvenile and is not being named. News 3 has also decided not to name any of the teachers, administrators or the student threatened in the essay. An email to the former student's lawyer has not yet been returned.
The 13-page paper, titled "Making a Difference," highlights wrongs perpetrated on the author during his time at the school, specifically naming six teachers, a student and an administrator. It concludes on the last day of school, where the author writes:
"I think it's time. I'm in first hour and I can already feel tense from the annoyance of (teacher's) voice. She is talking about her summer plans... It's annoying. So, I take out my dad's gun and aim for her face.
"(Author's name), what are
"She goes down. I have my arm extended with the gun because I don't want any of these dirty teenagers in my class putting their hands on me. Everyone is ducking and hiding under their desks and screaming, but I like to think that they are bowing to me. They're scared, but so am I, so there my classmates and I finally have something in common."
The English teacher brought the issue to her principal and told Verona police she did so because she remembered the shooter at Virginia Tech University had written numerous graphic essays in creative writing class before killing 32 people on campus in 2007.
School officials immediately suspended the student and in two separate emails informed VAHS staff that the student was "not allowed on school property or at any home or away school function... additional school discipline is pending."
Verona Schools Superintendent Dean Gorrell did not detail what that was to News 3 in an email, writing, "The student is no longer a student at Verona Area High School. I am not able to disclose any additional details as the matter is a student behavioral record and confidential."
VIEW DISTRICT RESPONSES TO NEWS 3's QUESTIONS [PDF]
Verona police interviewed the author of the paper, his family, classmates,, and friends in addition to finding social media messages on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook that conveyed negative feelings toward the city and the high school. Those were posted before the essay was turned in.
The former student told school officials and the school's police officer that "he felt he took the story line too far and it was not who he was, but a fictional character he had made up."
Verona police said they did not charge the former student with a crime because they did not believe he would follow through on any violent actions.
"It was determined the student had no intent to emulate his writings or to cause anyone harm," wrote Verona Police Lt. David Dresser in an email to News 3. "No direct threats were made to students or staff members. At the conclusion of the investigation it was learned the student would not be returning to the Verona High School and there was no active threat. The end result was to ensure the safety of the students and faculty. Based on these particular set of circumstances, the Verona Police Department did not pursue criminal charges. "
School officials said they responded to the threat appropriately.
"We believe that our systems worked to effectively address the situation," wrote Gorrell in an email to News 3. "Police were notified. The student was dealt with immediately under authority the law provides and ultimately the student did not return to school."
Gorrell also said the school's director of security is reviewing the response to see if changes are needed. Further, he said that the district was "not able to substantiate any claims of bullying behavior directed at the author of the paper."
Police records indicate a civil legal agreement was entered into by the school district and the former student's family. A request for details about that agreement has not yet been provided by district officials.
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