WENATCHEE — Wenatchee School Board members debated returning to in-person meetings earlier this week, more than a month after a large group of unmasked people disrupted the Aug. 24 board meeting.

Board member Julie Norton brought up the topic of returning to in-person meetings and Board President Laura Jaecks said she was interested in getting back to in-person meetings, saying a threat made against some school board members had been investigated and that the investigation has concluded.

“I don’t think there is any more that’s going to happen with that so as long as things seem calm, there’s no reason why we couldn’t consider resuming in-person meetings,” Jaecks said.

Board member Maria Iñiguez said it was her understanding the threat was not investigated. The threat arose from a post on Craigslist, according to a Sept. 22 email from Wenatchee Police Chief Steve Crown to Superintendent Paul Gordon.

The chief said he had the Investigations Unit analyze the content of the post. Detectives compared statements to local and state laws to see if there was the basis for a search warrant.

It was determined that the post did not clearly communicate a direct or indirect intended threat from a “reasonable person” standard, which is the legal standard for probable cause of a crime, Crown wrote in the email.

Crown said probable cause is the legal standard that is required in order to apply for a search warrant. Absent this legal requirement, it is highly improbable that a judge would authorize a search warrant, Crown wrote.

While there were no legal grounds to pursue it further, board member Martin Barron said that doesn’t mean to say there was not a threat, but that it didn’t rise to the level of getting a warrant.

Barron said that leaves the board not only with a threat but also with a question of how people will behave in an in-person board meeting which he said is something else the board will have to take into consideration.

“I and most people would very much like to be in-person. I believe today it was very important to be remote as we have been because of the great extent that we did not know what the situation was,” Barron said.

Iñiguez said she would like to meet individually to talk about the situation and look at the possibility of meeting in person. Iñiguez said she was one who was specifically threatened.

“I would just say imagine you were in a position of being threatened, yourself and your family and start with that,” Board member Michele Sandberg said.

Norton said she respected that and if someone is not comfortable, she would defer to them.

“I do think taking threats seriously is important. And I’m not just saying it because I was one of the people threatened but think things are getting ridiculous and it’s not just in our area; it’s nationwide,” Sandberg said. “School board members are getting threatened nationwide, and I don’t think it’s something we should minimize or take lightly.”

Jaecks proposed to meet with Sanberg and Iñiguez before the end of the week to have a conversation with both of them to evaluate how they are feeling given they were named specifically in the threat.

The information would be brought back to the superintendent and communicated to the rest of the board, Jaecks said.

Ian Dunn: (509) 664-7157

dunn@wenatcheeworld.com

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