Two juveniles — one local and the other from California — were involved in leaving threats at two Eau Claire high schools on Friday, according to authorities.
The local youth, identified in an Eau Claire police call log as a 14-year-old student at North High School, has been referred to juvenile intake on two counts of terroristic threats and one count each of bomb scares and unlawful use of computerized communication systems, Eau Claire police Lt. Derek Thomas said.
The boy is believed to have left threats on an administrator’s voicemail at North, Thomas said. He also identified a 15-year-old youth living in Perris, Calif., and police believe that teen left similar threats on the voicemail of a Memorial High School principal.
“We took it very seriously from the beginning,” said Thomas, noting Eau Claire police have been in contact with law enforcement in California about the possible involvement of the 15 year old.
Statistics prove why officials have to. In the 2017-18 school year, there were at least 3,380 threats recorded in U.S. K-12 schools, a 62 percent increase from 2,085 threats made in the 2016-17 school year, according to the Educator’s School Safety Network.
Just a month after 17 people were shot and killed at a Florida high school in February, Eau Claire police learned of a possible mass shooting being planned at Memorial.
On Friday, March 16, it was reported that a group of Memorial High School students participated in a dialogue using the social media app Facebook Messenger, and that discussion indicated a mass shooting would occur Monday, March 26, the day students were to return to the south side high school after spring break.
The dialogue, which occurred over the course of several days, included the sharing of photographs of firearms and several specific statements related to a planned shooting at the school. A student aware of the dialogue reported it to a parent who passed the information on to school staff who immediately alerted police.
Police, who believed the threat to be real, recommended four juveniles — three males and one female, all 15 years old and all students at Memorial — be charged in the matter.
Nationally, there also was an increase in actual incidents of violence — from 131 events in 2016-17 to 279 incidents in 2017-18, according to ESSN.
“Once (officers) talked to the juvenile here, we determined there was no viable threat” in the latest incident, Thomas said. “The situation was resolved in a short period of time, and we, along with the school administration, felt it was safe for students to attend school (on Monday).”
Eau Claire schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck couldn’t be reached for comment.
The threats were left on the voicemails just before midnight Friday, according to an email sent by the school district to parents of Memorial and North students.
The voice message at Memorial was discovered Saturday morning, and the caller indicated he was a student at the school, was suicidal and was going to bomb and shoot up the school, according to the police call log.
Eau Claire school administrators and the Eau Claire Police Department’s school resource officers responded immediately.
Once the voicemail was discovered at Memorial, other school district administrators were asked to check their voicemails, and a similar message at North was discovered later Saturday, Thomas said.
The student named in the voicemail left at Memorial had no idea about the message, according to the call log.
In the email from the school district to parents, an announcement regarding the event was to be shared at Memorial and North, and counseling services were to be available for any faculty or students requesting them.
“Events such as this can confuse and frighten students,” the email read. “They will look to adults for information and guidance on how to react. … It is important to reassure students that they are safe, help put their feelings into perspective and assist them in expressing these feelings appropriately.”
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