Students leave school early as threat rumors spread across social media

Ann+Arbor+Police+have+stepped+up+their+presence+at+schools+in+the+district+following+the+Oxford+High+School+shooting+in+Oakland+County+on+Tuesday.

Aaron J. Puno

Ann Arbor Police have stepped up their presence at schools in the district following the Oxford High School shooting in Oakland County on Tuesday.

Update Thursday, Dec. 2, 9 p.m.: 

Ann Arbor Public Schools announced tonight that all district schools will be closed tomorrow due to a “quite high” volume of threats of school violence on social media. In an email to families Superintendent Jeanice Swift said no threats have been found to be credible but the district is working with law enforcement around the clock to investigate further. 

“I was super thrilled when I first heard about the cancellation,” said Pioneer senior Jenny Sun. “But then it started to creep in that AAPS could potentially be facing a very real danger. I’m glad Dr Swift and other AAPS officials decided to take extra caution in addressing this situation and the safety of its staff and students.”

“It’s definitely very scary that something like this is happening within the AAPS,” agreed Andy Waiier, a Pioneer senior. “I just really hope these are only rumors, and I’m glad school has been canceled. I can’t imagine having another Oxford incident.”

In the meantime, school officials are reminding students of the seriousness of making or spreading such threats of violence. Normal school operations should resume next Monday, Dec. 6.

 

Original Article:

After word spread that numerous Southeast Michigan school districts near Oxford High School in Oakland County — the site of a tragic mass school shooting this week — had closed due to copycat shooter threats, rumors of local threats flew over social media among Ann Arbor Public Schools students causing over half of the Pioneer student body to leave school early today. 

In an email to district staff, students, and parents, AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift said, “Out of an abundance of caution, we are giving attention to alerts from students and parents concerning social media posts. Across the region, school districts are dealing with similar reports from students and parents, often identical images with only the school name changed. Be assured we take every threat seriously and work with local law enforcement to investigate.”

Word spread so fast over social media that by shortly after noon, clickondetroit.com had an article posted about threats specifically in Ann Arbor, along with articles about the Metro Detroit school closings. According to one article, law enforcement officials say “similar threats often pop up at nearby schools and districts” after a school shooting. These are commonly called copycat threats, and can result in serious criminal charges for students found to have made the threats. Later this afternoon, Oakland County law enforcement officials planned a news conference to address what they called “a tidal wave of copycat threats.” 

AAPS district officials say there have been no credible threats against Pioneer or any Ann Arbor public schools, but that each alert is investigated. In an email sent to staff this afternoon, Pioneer Principal Tracey Lowder said students and families must respond to these concerns in ways that are best for them, but that school was remaining open. 

“As Dr. Swift stated in a recent communication, we recognize that each student, staff member, and family respond differently to these situations and fully respect those who may feel the need to be away from school today,” he said. “We believe that our school serves as an important place for students and staff, particularly during these challenging days. Pioneer remains open this afternoon and all after-school activities are on as scheduled.”

Since yesterday, there has been an increased police presence at many AAPS buildings. At around 2 p.m. yesterday, a group of six police cars came to Pioneer and parked near the school’s main Stadium Blvd. entrance. In an email sent to staff yesterday afternoon, Principal Lowder said “Out of an abundance of caution, the AAPD had a visible presence in our building and in the parking lots at the end of the school day. We take all matters of school safety seriously, and we appreciate the response of our local law enforcement.”

Kata Bajcz, a Pioneer senior, stayed in school today despite many friends leaving early. “As callous as it sounds, Pioneer gets a lot of threats that never go through so it didn’t feel real … I didn’t want to be powerless,” she said. 

Marisa Jordan-Galarza, a senior at Pioneer, stayed at school because she has two AP classes in the afternoon she didn’t want to miss. “Mentally, I was calm, but in fourth hour my heart was beating really fast,” she said.

Sneha Thodla, also a senior, decided to leave school. “I think if this were any other day, I would have stayed in school, but because of the recent events concerning Oxford High School, I want to be extra careful with rumors and threats even if they aren’t true,” she said.

Junior Ese Izirein said she left school early because the Oakland County school shooting already had her feeling nervous about being at school. “I left today because I was already anxious coming to school this morning, and when I heard the rumors and saw the cops it just added to my anxiety,” she said. “Because of the fact that many things about the rumors weren’t addressed or acknowledged (right away), I felt better just leaving because I couldn’t focus in class or on my work.”

The email that was sent out also encouraged students to report anything suspicious that they see. “We appreciate that our students and parents ‘say something’ when they ‘see something,’ ” said the email. “We take all matters of school safety seriously, and we will follow up on the information provided to us, including involving law enforcement.”

For students, OK2SAY is an anonymous form of reporting that will get information about  threats to law enforcement and the school by calling 855-5OK-2SAY, texting 652729 (OK2SAY), or submitting a report at [email protected]