Schools face threats, hoaxes

GRANADA — On Monday, Granada-Huntley-East Chain School received a threat of a school shooting, adding to the increasing number of reports throughout the country and in the immediate area.

According to a press release from GHEC, the threat to commit a school shooting was found in a school bathroom. The Martin County Sheriff’s Department was notified around 3 p.m., the suspect was identified and it was determined the threat was not imminent. Students were then dismissed for the day.

The investigation is ongoing, although it has been determined there is no danger to the school.

Blue Earth Area Schools also recently dealt with a threat, after high school principal Rich Schneider received a report that a student brought a gun to the high school or on a school bus. According to a letter sent to parents and the media, an investigation was conducted by the Faribault County Sheriff’s Office, with no evidence found concerning the report.

Another threat came at Jackson County Central Schools. Charges were filed this week against Jaleel De’Aires Carr, 18, of Jackson. He faces a threats of violence count in Jackson County after allegedly making a threat online Sunday while playing a video game with JCC high school students. Carr is a former student at the school.

The threat at GHEC came just 12 days after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which left 17 dead and 14 injured. GHEC Superintendent Mandy Fletcher said following that shooting, GHEC administrators, educators and staff reviewed the district’s policies and protocols, as well as the crisis response manual.

“It’s really important to take a good hard look at your own policies and protocols and are you doing the very best that you can to ensure the safety of your students and staff,” she said. “It’s not always the easiest thing to do to examine situations like that, but you can learn from them.”

Since the mass shooting in Florida, there has been a dramatic increase in threats, false alarms and other incidents in schools around the country. According to the Educator’s School Safety Network, there have been at least 50 threats of violent incidents at schools since the Florida shooting. This includes false alarms and hoaxes.

Minnesota has seen a number of reports recently, including a threat in Orono that led to a school lockdown and a juvenile being charged with making terroristic threats.

Fletcher said GHEC has specific procedures that are followed when there is a threat. If a threat is imminent, she said, the school will go into lockdown, law enforcement will be called and an investigation will occur as quickly as possible. In this specific situation, Fletcher said, law enforcement worked closely with the school to gather information and conduct the investigation. The school did not go into lockdown on Monday, as it was determined that the threat was not imminent.

Fletcher said preparedness and prevention are crucial to keep students safe.

One important step the district took a few years ago, she said, was working to make the building secure. All the doors automatically lock, and the traffic is controlled by the main office, where visitors need to get buzzed in to enter. Once in the main office, they also have to have the door unlocked in order to enter the school.

“That has, first and foremost, been such a huge improvement, such a peace of mind for me that we have a secure building,” Fletcher said.

The school conducts frequent drills, such as fire drills and lockdowns. Fletcher said she usually plans to do the drills at inconvenient times, such as during recess or lunch, so students will be prepared at all times.

GHEC also puts a focus on character education classes for students and professional development for staff.

“To me that’s just as important as preparing for something that’s reactive, because I feel like getting that information out in front of our staff is a proactive approach,” she said.

Fletcher noted the district also emphasizes the importance of interpersonal relationships among students and administrators, educators and staff. She said every single student needs to have one person in the school they feel like they have a connection with.

Fletcher said that through communication and preparedness, GHEC continues to be committed to keeping its students safe.

“While I was hoping we wouldn’t ever have it be this personal here, we were prepared,” she said.