Schools, police face multiple threats after Michigan shooting

Threats of violence were received this week by several schools near Dayton and Springfield, and law enforcement leaders say that’s not uncommon on the heels of an event like the Nov. 30 Oxford, Michigan, school shooting.

“Normally when you see something like that, you see an increase in a lot of threats. Whether they’re spoofed, or somebody thinks it’s funny or whatever,” said Chief Deputy Daryl Wilson with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office. “That trend is not necessarily strange to us. You can have a lot of copycats and that’s been known to happen.

“At the end of the day whether you’re copycatting it or not, it is taken seriously. Law enforcement will investigate that and try to find out the source of those threats and if it’s credible and try to get to the person who actually sent out that threat because that is something you can face legal consequences for,” Wilson said.

School threats occurred this week in Centerville, Dayton, Franklin, Fairborn, Triad and other schools.

In Centerville, two high school students are facing felony charges after being arrested involving a gun incident on campus Dec. 3. Police said the arrests came after an unloaded rifle was found in a vehicle and a photo of the weapon was posted on Snapchat, along with a threat.

Authorities said arrests were made within 20 minutes and “there was never any imminent threat to the staff and students of CHS,” according to a Dec. 4 letter Superintendent Tom Henderson sent to families.

Nonetheless, the arrests were part of the Centerville police’s zero tolerance policy for threats and “undue panic,” said Centerville Officer John Davis, a department spokesman.

The Champaign County Sheriff’s Office and Triad Local School District investigated a threat made to the high school on Dec. 6.

A student made threatening comments about committing a shooting at the school, according to the sheriff’s office. The juvenile student was quickly identified and charged with multiple criminal offenses. The student’s parents were made aware of the threats and the student was barred from school until further notice.

Triad Local Schools Superintendent Vickie Hoffman said all threats are treated as credible until proven otherwise, noting that students are encouraged to report any potential threat. She said the school resource officer and police must be on high alert every day.

“You never know when an incident will happen, so each moment is important,” she said. “It’s important that we all work together to ensure the safety of our school community.”

In Dayton, a bathroom-wall threat against Belmont High School led Principal Karen Spaulding-Chicketti to send a message to families. Dayton Public Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said the threat was determined to be a hoax and that students involved are facing discipline.

“Whenever a potential threat is discovered, the district works with the Dayton Police Department, places additional security personnel at the school, and requests that all building employees remain calm and vigilant,” Lolli said. “Unless told otherwise, all students should attend school as usual and know that district personnel and police have taken necessary steps to ensure their safety.”

Lolli also encouraged parents and students to pay close attention to all communication from the school and be careful not to “spread unsubstantiated information that could incite fear or panic.”

Sometimes the threats aren’t even local. A social media threat that led Fairfield schools in Butler County to increase police security turned out not to be from Fairfield or even Ohio, police said.

“We are still working to determine who is responsible for the threat and why they specifically chose Fairfield,” police said. “We will continue to monitor the situation and maintain the increased level of security within the district as we move forward with our investigation.”

Wilson, the Montgomery County chief deputy, said finding the person responsible can take time depending on a number of factors.

“We utilize as much technology that is available to us to try to identify the sender, the origin of the threat and how credible the threat is,” Wilson said. “It could be difficult at times and it can take a while.”

Wilson said the sheriff’s office uses those resources because making sure students and the public are safe is the top priority.

“This is nothing to play with, it is against the law to make these kind of threats and we look into these threats very seriously,” he said.

In Centerville, Officer Davis said the rifle confiscation was the first time in several years a weapon was discovered on school grounds in the district.

Both Centerville police and Henderson in his letter urged anyone seeing anything suspicious to avoid posting it to social media.

Instead, report it to “a trusted adult” or through established tip lines, according to Henderson.

“Social media is not the place for jokes,” he stated in the letter. “It is monitored and potential threats are investigated and referred to law enforcement for criminal investigation and prosecution.”

Davis said Centerville has “systems in place that are going every day, 24 hours a day — whether it’s through the schools tip line or our tip lines,” he said. “I just think that after an incident like that, that kind of chatter increases,” Davis added. “And also people are more likely to report things that they see right after an incident…because it’s more in the public mind.”

Fairborn High School administration also was notified on Thursday of a potential threat from of student, according to a press release from the district. Investigation by the Fairborn Police Dept. and the school resource officer revealed the threat involved a student talking about a video game, Superintendent Gene Lolli said in the release.

Officials for Vandalia-Butler City Schools said the district has worked to build a “culture of safety” over the past five years by focusing on building security, safety/security practices and procedures, training for students and staff, and mental health resources.

Students, parents and staff are also encouraged to speak up if they witness something suspicious.

“We talk about school safety every day,” said VBCSD spokeswoman Mary Stephens. “If we are informed of a threat, we follow up and investigate each situation fully. If it happens outside of school, then we are in direct communication with our police departments who then make house visits.”