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Orange teachers heard threats, did not report them until after colleague resigned

May 24, 2019

An Orange County Schools spokesman on Friday clarified the timeline between a teacher’s threats, her resignation and her arrest on Tuesday.

Seth Stephens said the principal of Pathways Elementary School in Hillsborough didn’t know that a special needs teacher there had threatened to shoot up the school until May 18, the day after the teacher resigned.

Administrators notified law enforcement of the threat, and Kristen Michelle Thompson, 38, of 2108 Strebor St. in Durham, was arrested May 21.

According to prosecutors, Thompson told three of her fellow teachers on May 6 that she’d signal them with a message – “the squash is ripe” – to get out of the school because she was going to open fire. Another teacher told investigators that Thompson said, “any day she does not come in and shoot the school is a good day.”

Stephens did not have an explanation for why the teachers did not report the threats, which was their responsibility under school policy.

“Employees shall be alert at all times and, at a minimum, immediately report situations that may pose a threat to the safety of students or any other person on school system property, at school events, or in any other situation in which students are under the authority of school employees,” the policy says.

He did not say how or whether any teachers were disciplined for withholding the information.

On Wednesday, Orange County Schools posted openings for three positions at Pathways. Two are for exceptional children teachers – the same position Thompson held – and one is for a second-grade teacher.

Thompson was charged with communicating a threat of mass violence. Her bond was set at $1,000, and she paid it, court records show.

In court on Thursday, the judge banned Thompson from all Orange County Public Schools properties, from possessing any guns or other weapons and from contact with “members of the Orange County Public School System unless it’s for investigative purposes.”

As she walked out of court, Thompson ignored questions from reporters about the allegations.

Stephens said Thompson had worked at Pathways for less than a year and was previously employed by Person County Schools.

Anyone with information about Thompson’s alleged threats is asked to call the Orange County Sheriff’s Office at 919-245-2900.