Reports of school-shooter threat at Northeastern HS just rumor, officials say
Rumors that a senior at Northeastern High School had threatened to "shoot up the school" were just that, police and the district superintendent said — rumors.
"We thought (the situation) had resolved," Superintendent Stacey Sidle said on Thursday, Dec. 20. "But the rumors ended up growing legs."
She and Northeastern Regional Police Chief Bryan Rizzo said there weren't any threats made and that there was never a danger to students or staff.
The superintendent stressed she and district administrators always want students and others to come forward with concerns and not worry about deciding whether they're credible.
"I want to hear everything the kids are telling us," Sidle said. "It can get exhausting, but it's important for us to continue to encourage kids to talk to us. We want to make sure we never overlook anything."
What happened: Rizzo said Northeastern Regional Police began investigating this week after a student reported seeing social media posts made by another student threatening "to shoot up the school."
But it didn't happen, according to the chief.
"No threats were made. There's nothing to make us believe there was any type of threat to the school," Rizzo said.
Investigators spoke with both students and determined "that's not what was said in the posts at all," according to the chief.
He said the student who came forward didn't lie. That student read into it what he or she wanted, and "kind of exaggerated," Rizzo said.
"We worked with the school," he said. "There were a lot of kids and parents who were upset."
Rumor mill: Sidle said the high school's principal sent out informational emails and voicemail to parents and guardians of high-school students and also sent the message directly to the students.
"I wrote a (letter) and sent it to all the parents in the district," she said, once it was clear rumors were still flying. "In that letter, we said they're rumors that have been thoroughly investigated by police and that there's no credible threat."
She said the letter encourages students not to spread such rumors, including on social media websites. Instead, they should immediately go to a teacher or school administrator, as should their parents.
"I want (students) to know we're listening to them," Sidle said. "And we want to make sure we're doing everything we can to make sure they feel safe at school."
Police presence: Because rumors had created concern in the community, Northeastern Regional officers went to the high school on Wednesday morning to show a reassuring presence, Rizzo said.
Police set up metal detectors at the school's entrance for arrival time that morning, he said.
Students lined up outside the school so they could be individually checked through the metal detectors, Rizzo said.
The chief noted that after the original social-media message was posted by the student who was investigated, the "rumor mill" ran with it, and the story grew.
"Every rumor we've investigated since then goes back to the original posting," he said. "We have no belief there was any threat."
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.