Police, parents, students, school officials — nearly everyone, it seems — are on high alert after a shooting at a Northeast Ohio high school that killed three students and injured two others.
At least ten teenagers have been arrested or questioned by police in connection mostly with posting threatening messages on Facebook, and a handful of schools have been evacuated or increased security after receiving bomb threats.
“Some of the offending posts reported to authorities over the past several days came before the Monday shootings occurred, but were noticed only after something bad happened,” the AP says.
Among the threats, arrests and school evacuations:
- The Akron school district in posted two extra security officers at a middle school after someone claiming to be a student at another Akron school posted “a message on Facebook threatening to hurt middle school girls.”
- A sophomore in Huber Heights, near Dayton, was detained and questioned by police after he posted a message on Facebook suggesting he was bringing a gun to school.
- A freshman at North Royalton High School, near Cleveland, was detained and questioned by the police after “a girl overheard the boy making threats and talking of possessing weapons.”
- Cleveland Central Catholic was evacuated after a bomb threat Wednesday.
- Green High School, near Akron, was evacuated Tuesday after a bomb threat was found written on a bathroom wall.
- A student at Cleveland’s Glenville High School was detained and the building searched after “another student accused him of having a weapon.” No weapon was found, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.
- A 14-year old from Strongsville, near Cleveland was arrested Tuesday “for inducing panic by using social media to post alarming statements.” The school’s principal said: “There tends to be overreaction as opposed to under reaction in these cases… Especially after what happened this week in Chardon we do react and try to be thorough.” Strongsville Patch reported the next day that the student “did not make a threat about violence at the high school, but passed along information indicating someone else might become violent there.”
- A seventh grader at Revere Middle School in the Northeast Ohio township of Bath was arrested after “making threatening comments.” The district superintendent said: ”The timing with the incident that occurred in Chardon made this an issued that needed to be addressed.”
- A student at Washington High School in the Northeast Ohio city of Massillon was questioned by police after he “allegedly threatened to bring a gun to school.” Local police said: Had we not had a shooting this close to home we probably wouldn’t have gotten a call.”
- A student at United High School in Columbiana County was arrested after he “reportedly made a threat involving having a gun at school.” The district superintendent told the local newspaper that in the wake of the Chardon shooting, that “even after they learned the student did not have an actual gun with him, they decided not to take any chances.”
- A student at Maplewood Career Center in Portage County was detained by police who responded “in force” and questioned Tuesday by police after he claimed to have been bullied and had made threats to harm others,”
- A 17-year old at Crestwood High School in Portage County was arrested Tuesday after students reported Facebook posts made both before (“I’m close to going on a stabbing spree. I can’t take some of these people anymore.”) and after (“Who agrees with their friend that it’s a good idea to shoot up a school?”) the Chardon shootings. He told sheriff’s deputies that the second post “was more commenting that the kid in Chardon had a friend who knew about [the Chardon High School shooting] and didn’t do anything about it.”
- And in Wisconsin, a 16-year old student was arrested after police say he made a “death list” of students and “planned to bring a gun to school.” The local police chief said that “given this week’s shooting at Chardon High School in Ohio, the teen’s threat was taken seriously.”
It’s unclear how many of these recent threats and arrests are due to increased vigilance and how many to students are actually making more threats. One superintendent told the Dayton Daily News that his district would “take any threat seriously:”
“You can’t just decide that it’s fake or phony,” [Centerville City Schools Superintendent Tom] Henderson said Monday. “Depending on the situation, we would definitely involve the police department and take every precaution.”
But many of the school districts admitted to taking Facebook posts, tweets, and other threats more seriously than if there hadn’t just been a shooting in Chardon.
“We pay attention to these things when something horrible happens, unfortunately, but there’s a whole lot of violence and conflict that teenagers are dealing with that doesn’t even make the light of day.”
–Deanna Wilkinson, Ohio State University
Ohio State University Professor Deanna Wilkinson is an expert on school and youth violence, and she says every school shooting is followed by a spike in reports of school violence because after a school shooting, “everyone is on heightened alert.”
She says people think “if we don’t pay attention to (a threat) and something bad happens then everyone’s going to be blaming us after the fact so it’s better to overreact than not do anything.”
Sometimes it’s copy cat students who figure they can snag some attention while the media is on high alert, sometimes it’s just a school district that is unusually sensitive after a violent episode close to home.
But, Wilkinson says, the threat of violence in schools is not unusual.
“We pay attention to these things when something horrible happens, unfortunately, but there’s a whole lot of violence and conflict that teenagers are dealing with that doesn’t even make the light of day,” she says.
School districts and local police departments are constantly looking into school threats. Many of them are empty, many others are prevented on time.
One thing is for sure, Wilkinson says we can expect to hear about more school violence threats for at least a few more months.