October 22, 2014

Medina
Mostly cloudy
45°F

School officials: No need to panic on threat rumored for today

MEDINA — Medina superintendent Randy Stepp told parents Wednesday night that rumors of a potential threat today at Medina High School were unfounded.

Stepp addressed the rumors in a followup email Wednesday night about the spent shell casing found at Ralph E. Waite Elementary School that morning.

Randy Stepp

Stepp said there was no threat. He said his message referred to social media chatter about the hypothetical end of the Mayan calendar today.

“We heard that there was a rumor that something’s going to happen at Medina High School because of the end of the world,” he said. “There was no reason for us to believe that there was anything serious.”

Medina isn’t the only school district reacting to social media discussion linked to the Mayan calendar today.

In Lorain County, North Ridgeville police Capt. Marti Garrow downplayed reports of a threat at North Ridgeville High School but said police will use extra caution and have extra patrols just in case.

School officials and police previously said they were investigating threatening online postings that allege future violence at the high school.

North Ridgeville police Capt. Marti Garrow said investigations into alleged threats failed “to locate a complainant.”

“Nothing panned out to have any substance,” he said.

“Due to it being the 21st and the rumors of it being the end of the world, as well as the recent tragedy in Connecticut, we, and every police department around the country, will be taking extra steps,” Garrow said.

In North Olmsted, police investigated rumors found on Facebook and Twitter on Thursday that referred to violent acts that would occur today, according to an email to students, parents and community leaders from North Olmsted Schools Superintendent Terry Krivak.

Krivak said that police found no evidence or proof of any credible threat.

In Michigan, dozens of school districts went as far as to cancel classes to cool off rumored threats of violence and problems related to doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar, officials said Thursday.

Public schools in Genesee and Lapeer counties, neighboring counties north of the Detroit area, started Christmas break Wednesday night rather than hold classes the rest of the week. Meanwhile, police investigated whether students made false claims about guns at the high school in Grand Blanc, said John Potbury, a spokesman for the Genesee County prosecutor.

Elsewhere in Michigan, Cass City schools were supposed to hold classes for three days this week but decided to cancel after students said they overheard another student making a possible gun threat against a staff member last week.

Today in Medina, Superintendent Stepp said police will be stationed at all Medina schools to reassure students and parents after the shooting in Connecticut that killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

“We have learned that there is a rumor spreading through the student population that there is a planned threat at Medina High School for this Friday,” Stepp wrote in the email Wednesday night. “We, along with Medina Police, have investigated the rumor and found it NOT to be credible. The source of the rumor was identified and it was determined not to be legitimate.”

Waite Elementary was in lockdown for about two hours Wednesday morning after a student found an empty shell casing in the lobby. Stepp wrote that school officials did not believe students were in any immediate danger.

“Through the investigation we found that a student who collects empty ammunition casings brought the one that was found to school to show friends,” he wrote. “Parents were contacted and Montville Township Police confirmed through a visit to the home that the student who brought the casing does not have access to firearms.”

He also wrote in the email that he’d received questions from parents about why the district emailed them instead of called. Stepp said. He wrote that the district wanted to avoid a mass panic that might be created through premature communication.

“The priority is ensuring student and staff safety first, and controlling and securing the environment,” he wrote. “Once that has happened and we understand the situation, parent communication is made at the level we believe fits the situation.”

Stepp also urged all parents to have conversations with their children about what is appropriate in a school setting.

“Be it bringing banned items to school, having inappropriate conversations or making threats, all of these issues need to be discussed and understood by all students so that we can ensure everyone’s safety,” Stepp wrote.

Reporter Steve Fogarty and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.