Principal: Information over social media threats 'completely unt - WNEM TV 5

Principal: Information over social media threats 'completely untrue'

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MIDLAND, MI (WNEM) -

Midland Public Schools is investigating the latest round of threats made on social media after a “specific and potentially dangerous verbal threat” was allegedly made by a student. 

The first threat happened on Tuesday, May 16 at Northeast Middle School.

In a letter sent to parents on Wednesday, Principal Dirk DeBoer said the original threat was made by a student “to several classmates."

DeBoer went on to say the students informed teachers who passed the information along to the administration.

While details weren’t released, the district said the “situation is being handled and all students are safe;” stating the student who was involved in making the alleged threat will not be in school and the district is getting support from the Youth Intervention Specialist and Community Mental Health.

The letter also states the district is still investigating some details.

On Wednesday, Midland Public Schools Supt. Michael Sparrow told TV5 the school was made aware of more social media threats made after Tuesday's incident. 

"The four or five students involved are friends of the student who has been disciplined over [Tuesday's] threat. They have been taken to the school office where they are meeting with police. They will be removed from school and referred to Community Mental Health," Sparrow said in a statement. 

Midland police confirmed Tuesday they were made aware of the initial threat made, but said the school is handling the matter internally. 

A parent posted on Facebook saying her daughter was the target of a threat in which a boy pointed out several students numbering them one through four. When the students allegedly asked why, the boy reportedly said it was in reference to a school shooting.

"It's a little concerning because you do worry about your children being safe, but it seems that they handled it appropriately and the kid has been given suspension," said Thayon Barton, parent.

Barton said she wished the communication between the school and parents was more detailed so she could discuss concerns with her daughter.

"As a parent I would like to know. I would like to at least talk to my child about it, see if they knew about it, see if they were worried about it," Barton said.

The parent who posted the on Facebook said she was told the boy in question does not have access to a "tool" to carry out the threat, but that doesn't take away from their worries.

"A little bit concerned about the kids coming back to school without any guidance as to why his behavior was inappropriate," Barton said.

Parents said they're frustrated over how the situation is being handled. Some even pulled their kids out of class.

Rayne Norton, 12, stayed home for school on Thursday.

"I've been really scared about it just in case it really does happen," Rayne said. "I don't wanna be a person that gets shot or anything. I don't wanna get hurt."

The most recent threats were posted on Instagram.

"It was all over Insta. This girl was saying she was gonna come with her gang," Rayne said.

Paul Norton, Rayne's dad, said he was expecting the school to get involved right away, but he said that's not what happened.

"They said the school was locked down and there was policemen there. Well, when I got there the school was not locked down and there was one cop," he said.

Kara Wallace, mother of two students at Northeast Middle School, is concerned about the threats.

"At what point does a threat become an act," she said.

She said as a mother she had an eye opening moment while carrying her son's backpack through the halls of the school this week.

"It's a black bag, backpack, and I walked through and got all the way to the office. And no one did anything and it made me realize that there's no precaution as to if someone were to come into the school with something," Wallace said.

Below is a letter sent to parents on Thursday, May 18: 

Dear Viking Families,

I am writing to update you regarding the incident Tuesday in which a student made a specific and potentially dangerous threat to four students.  As I stated yesterday, we are following the Crime Free Schools and NEOLA policies to the fullest.  Anytime an incident involves a threatening communication of this nature the course of action is dictated by these policies. Commonly the consequences involve expulsion from school. I want to assure you our school and campus are safe. 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation being shared on social media and in the news.  There have been no additional threats to the safety of students at Northeast since the original on Tuesday.  Some students have made bad choices after the incident, resulting in disciplinary action.  Several students used Instagram to make terrible comments about our school in support of the student who made the original threat.  Some of these comments encouraged students to misbehave in protest or support of the student.  This type of behavior is obviously unacceptable and only adds to the stress people are already feeling.  In another example, a student used very poor judgement in class mocking the situation of the original threat, disturbing classmates.  This was also dealt with. 

I know you want to have updates immediately, but we cannot compete with the information being communicated on social media and the news.  Please realize the vast majority of what is being shared is completely untrue.  We are investigating every aspect of this to the fullest. I have been in constant consultation with the police department to make sure we are handling things the best way possible for your children.  I would never take chances with the safety and security of Northeast Middle School. 

For peace of mind and additional security, we will have an officer at the school tomorrow.  We will have additional guidance counselors from the district on hand to talk to students in need. Please call the office if you have questions or concerns.  Again, thank you for your support.

Yours in education,

Dirk R. DeBoer, Principal

Below is the original letter sent home to parents on Wednesday, May 17: 

Mobile users, click here to read the full letter to parents

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