Kettering police arrested a 14-year-old Fairmont High School freshman Tuesday morning who they said made an “extremely concerning” social media threat that led the district to close the school Tuesday.
School officials took a stand about the impact of the threat, which mentioned “shooting up Fairmont” around noon Tuesday and was reported by a parent around 7:45 p.m. Monday.
“The disruption to the school day for 2,400 students and our staff members, the emotional toll these actions take on our families and community, and the sheer drain on manpower needed to handle this situation will not be tolerated,” Kettering schools officials said Tuesday morning.
Kettering Superintendent Mindy McCarty-Stewart said the student would go through “due process,” but likely would be suspended with an ultimate recommendation for expulsion.
The name of the teen arrested has not been released, but Kettering police Chief Chip Protsman said officers identified the student who made the threat and were at the freshman’s house by 8 a.m. Tuesday. Police are pursuing a felony charge of inducing panic and said the boy remains in custody.
There were weapons in the boy’s house, but Protsman said police didn’t think there was any intent at all to use them. For all the upheaval and worry to thousands of people, police said the reason was mundane.
“The motive for that, after our detectives interviewed this young man, was he made the threat because he did not want to attend school today,” Protsman said.
Tough weeks, message for parents
McCarty-Stewart and Protsman encouraged parents and teachers to speak with students on the seriousness of making threats like these, which can result in felony convictions, and how to reach out and get help if they are worried about attending school.
School extracurricular activities resumed Tuesday afternoon, and classes will be in session Wednesday.
“I would tell you it has been a challenging last couple of weeks,” Fairmont Principal Tyler Alexander said. “But when you walk the halls of Fairmont High School, our kids are in class, our teachers are teaching and nothing looks any different inside the walls. I’m very proud of that.”
The threat came just a week after another threat was made against the school district, with police saying that one came from Brandon Dawes Moore, a 43-year-old Beavercreek man. Moore was arraigned on charges of inducing panic and telecommunications harassment, both misdemeanors. Moore has been released from jail.
“The phone call centered around someone coming to the school to shoot (LGBTQ+) students,” an affidavit filed in municipal court on Moore’s case read. The threat came shortly after controversy over two “gender-fluid” students being named Fairmont’s prom king and queen.
State doesn’t have good data
The state of Ohio has a School Safety Center that was established in 2019, just weeks after the mass shooting in Dayton’s Oregon District.
But a lack of required reporting means the number of Ohio school threat cases that result in closings or other measures is not tracked.
“There’s no mandatory reporting for these types of incidents or any threats of school violence in Ohio,” said Jay Carey of the OSSC. “So, we don’t really have any numbers — any accurate reporting on that.”
The safety center — within the Homeland Security section of the Department of Public Safety — is designed to centralize efforts to stop shootings and identify students who could be public safety risks. They pursue “effective policies and procedures, training, and community and interagency involvement,” according to the OSSC website.
But getting data on school shooting threat cases would require legislative action, Carey said.
“Without the mandatory reporting,” he said, it’s difficult to characterize whether or not the number of school threat cases are increasing.
Chief says Kettering is prepared
Protsman said Kettering school security systems are some of the best in the state, and the police department has been extensively trained to respond to the schools if something happens.
More officers are in the schools than several years ago, he said, and it is now mandatory that any Kettering police officer who is on patrol would stop and visit schools to build relationships. Kettering’s police department building is just a few hundred yards from Fairmont High School and Van Buren Middle School.
But he said as a parent, he understands the worry and concern that many parents have.
“I have a student who goes to Fairmont High School,” Protsman said. “I have two children who graduated from Fairmont High School. Never once have I been concerned for their safety while sending them to this school.”