Violent threats on social media are closing more schools than COVID this week

Fear created by widespread threats is making in-person learning 'essentially useless,' Michigan students say.
By: | December 14, 2021

More schools were closed because of online threats Tuesday than by COVID in the aftermath of the Oxford High School shooting and as the nation also marked the ninth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre.

Oxford High School, and the other buildings in Oxford Community Schools, were closed again Tuesday due to a “specific” social media threat made against the district’s middle school, according to published reports. And more than 10,000 people have signed a student-led petition to close all schools in surrounding Oakland County, Michigan, through winter break as online threats overwhelm districts in the wake of the Oxford High School tragedy.

“These widespread threats have induced fear and taken an emotional toll on all students, making in-person learning essentially useless,” the petition says.

Along with calling for a shift to remote learning as copycat threats are investigated, the petition urges school administrators to release detailed safety plans for protecting students before in-person instruction resumes. But school closures are occurring well beyond Michigan. In Maine, RSU 10 Western Foothills closed its schools on Tuesday after threats were made on Zoom during a school board meeting.

“Vulgar comments and a threat to ‘our schools’ was made,” Superintendent Deb Alden said in a message to the community. “It appears that this may have been a technology issue where other users inadvertently entered our meeting.”

Authorities believe the schools are safe but there will be an increased presence in schools when they reopen on Wednesday, Alden said.

Pequot Lakes Public Schools in Minnesota closed Monday after receiving reports of a photo on a social media post threatening the school administration and an investigation into a student bringing a knife to a high school parking lot on Friday. In the first incident, police determined the photo had been circulating for more than a month and that it and several other social media threats were not credible, the district said on its website. Prosecutors are considering charges in the latter incident. In Utah, the Box Elder School District moved all of its elementary schools, a middle school and a high school to remote learning on Monday due to “additional alleged threats and social media postings.

Local police announced on social media that the schools reopened Tuesday after serving search warrants and conducting several interviews that resulted in criminal charges. “It has been determined that the threats that were made were attempts at being funny, which were not funny,” the Tremonton Garland Police Department posted on Facebook. “Two juveniles are being charged criminally for these threats that caused alarm and concern throughout the community.”

Back in Michigan, on the opposite side of the state from Oxford, Bloomingdale Public Schools closed Tuesday as rumors of a threat began circulating last week. “Please talk to your students about how important it is to not spread rumors,” Superintendent Deanna Dobbins said in a message to the community. “Please remind your students that it is important to only share firsthand information with a trusted adult and send any safety concerns to the tipline and/or school administration.”

Also in Western Michigan, Lakeshore High School was closed Tuesday as police were investigating a written threat found in a bathroom on Monday, reported. “Please make sure your children understand that we take all safety concerns seriously; there are no jokes or pranks,” Lakeshore Public Schools said on Facebook.