Wave of threats at SE Michigan schools has students thinking, 'Are they safe?'

March 1, 2018

Wave of threats at SE Michigan schools has students thinking, 'Are they safe?'


A wave of bomb threats and comments about reenacting a mass shooting have some Southeast Michigan districts on edge.

While no actual violence has occurred, the threats themselves can adversely impact students. That's according to Marc Zimmerman, IHPI member and a professor in the University of Michigan's School of Public Health.

Zimmerman has studied trauma and victimization of adolescents and young adults. He says any type of concern for well-being, bullying threats included, can have long-term impacts on children and society. That includes the impact of threats made against schools.

"The bottom line - how could it not affect them?" Zimmerman asked. "How could it not interfere with them second-guessing that, 'Are they safe?'"

In the two weeks since 17 students were gunned at a Florida high school, southeastern Michigan schools have seen a number of reported threats against their students.

"There's definitely been a spike," Derrick Jackson of the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office said of the reported threats.

Police have been alerted to everything from an Instagram photo of a minor with a crossbow - which was determined to not be a true threat - to more specific threats of danger, he said. Police take all of those reports seriously.

Michigan State Police First Lt. Mike Shaw has a different view. He said it's possible media reporting around threats, not the threats themselves, have increased. He does not believe there has been an uptick in threats since the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and points to similar threats reported prior to the shooting.

"I also believe that the public is also more aware and is reporting to law enforcement everything they hear," he said. "This is a good thing as we would rather investigate everything we receive than have someone not tell us and it turn out to be a real threat."

The reported threats remain alarming for school administrators such as Saline Area Schools Superintendent Scot Graden, who said in his decade in his role, he's never seen such a high number and wide variety of reported threats in the region.

Though Saline schools have not received any sort of threat in recent weeks, alarms were still raised when social media posts threatening harm against a school - called "SHS" - circulated late last week in Northern Ohio, Graden said. The threat was deemed not credible, but still cause concern for Saline High School, and other nearby Michigan schools.

"I think it's fair to say that our school community and the area around us is sensitive to incidents of threats," he said.

A number of school districts have been sent into lockdown or evacuation at the prospect of violence.

Lincoln High School in Augusta Township was temporarily evacuated Friday, Feb. 23 after a bomb threat was found written on a bathroom wall and, as reported by WDIV, Plymouth-Canton Educational Park was placed under a "soft lockdown" after a rumor circulated about a possible weapon at the school.

An emailed bomb threat caused evacuation and canceled classes Monday at Milan Area Schools and unspecified threats closed Wayne-Westland Community Schools on Tuesday.

Whether the comment was an ill-advised joke or a criminal matter worthy of charges will ultimately be decided by prosecutors.

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