Oregon schools address social media threats

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Police say online threats to local schools have increased by 75% since the fatal shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day. 

Portland police said they had investigated 43 online threats this year, and that was before the Florida shooting. 

The latest threats over social media impacted the Woodburn and Gervais school districts Friday morning. It started with a Facebook post made Thursday night that mentioned the Florida shooting and that something similar was going to happen Friday. 

The threat spread over Snapchat, although it appears that was just concerned students sharing information from the Facebook post.

Woodburn and Gervais police started investigating the case and increased security at both schools. Police were present at the schools and Gervais took the extra step of going into lockout — meaning no one was allowed in or out without going through the main office.

The threat was eventually deemed not credible. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office said Gervais police took a 17-year-old suspect into custody Friday afternoon. The school was placed on lockdown briefly while police went to the suspects’ home to arrest him. 

“It’s really sad and as we all know the national discussion and debate,” Gervais Superintendent Matt Henry said. “I hope it will come to some consensuses on more preventative ways to adjust our systems.” 

Sherwood High School was also placed in lockout Friday afternoon. Sherwood police said officers investigated a report of a weapon in a vehicle, which turned out to be a plastic gun. 

“We appreciate the attentiveness of school staff in being proactive to report any suspicious activity or circumstances,” the police department wrote on Facebook. 

On Wednesday, Bend police arrested a student suspected of making threats via social media toward Bend High School. Police said the 16-year-old student wrote online that he wanted to shoot unspecified students at the school.

Police learned he was contemplating a shooting and there were weapons in his home, but he didn’t have access to them. The boy was taken for a mental health evaluation and then booked into the Deschutes County Juvenile Department on a disorderly conduct charge.

Bend police said this was the third threat in 9 days, but the first credible one. 

District Attorney John Hummel provided this statement about the quick response to the threat in Bend: 

“I could not be more proud of our community’s response to the threats made by a local teenager to shoot students at Bend High. The student who became aware of the threats quickly called 911. Bend Police immediately investigated the report and arrested the suspect. Our students are safe because of this swift and certain response.

The suspect is being held in the Deschutes County juvenile detention facility and your District Attorney’s Office will work with the court to ensure that he is held in a secure facility as long as is necessary to keep our community safe.

“If you see something – say something” is the culture that has been infused in our local schools. Kudos to all of our parents and school administrators who helped instill this credo, and many thanks to the student who acted on his concern by calling the police.

Your community leaders will remain ever vigilant in our mission of keeping our children safe so they can thrive and prosper.”

Oregon has a simple way to report tips about threats to schools. SafeOregon aims to prevent safety issues from happening. 

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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