A 15-year-old boy allegedly brought a handgun to Winona Senior High School on multiple occasions and pointed it at classmates, according to police reports. Other students had allegedly known about the gun since May, but didn't tell an adult. Following this series of incidents, some parents and community members deplored what they called a lack of communication from district officials, saying the system that is meant to protect students was broken.
A series of open forum discussions for students at the high school, beginning Thursday, will focus on improving communication — among students and educators — in the wake of the alleged gun incident. Counselors and school administrators will be available to help guide the open talks.
The forums are meant to help answer the question, "How do we talk to each other," said Gay Mortensen, Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) publications and promotions coordinator. "How do we realize that telling isn't tattling?" Following complaints from parents that communication was lacking during the alleged gun incident, Mortensen said the student forum would center "around that whole topic of trust and communication."
The first session will be held at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, with additional forums planned for November 13 during group study hall, and November 20 at 3:40 p.m., all at the high school media center.
After charges were filed against the 15-year-old high school student for allegedly having the handgun on school property, WAPS officials held a meeting for parents and community members to discuss the incident. The event generated complaints that the district was not taking security seriously, while some parents wondered whether school officials should monitor students' use of social media accounts, search backpacks, or install metal detectors at school entrances.
Attorney Kurt Knuesel, who is representing the boy who allegedly had possession of the handgun on school property, spoke during the community forum, alleging that the boy had been bullied for years and that police and school officials were unresponsive to requests for intervention from the boy's parents. The boy was charged with second-degree assault, possession of a dangerous weapon, and terroristic threats.