Stillwater Area High School enacted a modified lockdown on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 14, after a social media threat was made, but the school returned to normal operations in the early afternoon after police determined the threat was not credible.
“We have been working closely with law enforcement since the first report of the post on social media and at no point was there a legitimate threat to student safety,” SAHS Principal Rob Bach said in a Tuesday email letter sent to families.
Many students left the building early, and all those students received excused absences.
“When social media threats are made it is crucial that your child report any knowledge of the source of the post or other posts of concern to school officials as soon as possible,” Bach wrote. “This allows for an investigation to determine facts in an effort to dispel rumors that create a more difficult situation to manage.”
Bach posted a five-minute video to Facebook on the evening of the incident.
“I want to take the opportunity to address the events that took place at Stillwater Area High School today, and affirm the fact your students were safe throughout the day while at school,” Bach said. “What I can share with you is that last night there was a concerning post that was shared with members of our administrative team.”
The post involved students holding a gun that was shared with staff members on Monday evening, Dec. 13.
“Although the post was put on social media by a Stillwater Area High School student, at no time was there evidence of direct threat to Stillwater Area High School or students,” Bach said. “As school officials worked with law enforcement to continue processing this situation this morning, rumors and concerns began to spread on social media to the point where we called for a modified lockdown.”
A modified lockdown is when students are not allowed to leave the classroom, but instruction and regular business continue to take place “because there’s no threat inside the building,” Bach said. “We called this modified lockdown primarily to address the uncontrolled student traffic, and students leaving due to the rumors that they were hearing about on social media. I want to stress that had there been any credible threat to our students or staff we would have called for a full lockdown immediately.”
In a full-lockdown situation, law enforcement would have taken over, and the district would have been updating parents about the details and what steps they should take.
Bach thanked the students who shared the post with staff members, and encouraged parents to not spread rumors.
“Please don’t share anything on social media based on hearsay,” Bach said. “Share evidence of what you know with school officials or law enforcement so that we can conduct an investigation based on facts.”
If a true lockdown were to occur, he said that students are likely safer in the classroom than in hallways or leaving out on their own, the principal said. That is especially true if there were a threat outside
“In a real emergency situation you as parents would not be allowed on campus to pick up your child, but instead would need to follow the evacuation and reunification procedures,” Bach said.
School returned to normal operations on Wednesday morning, Dec. 15.
“I know that there have been subsequent posts on social media attempting to connect completely unrelated events to what happened at Stillwater Area High School today,” Bach said. “There are various Photoshopped images proliferating that are over four days old.”
All the posts made online have been investigated in some cases by other school districts, and law enforcement agencies outside the Stillwater area.
“I want to repeat once again there is no legitimacy to any of the threatening concerns that we have investigated today,” Bach said. “We would not open school for students and staff if there was a safety concern.”
However, there were additional supports put in place on Wednesday, Dec. 15, including school social workers to help students process the situation and additional law enforcement personnel were posted on site.
“As a parent of a high school student myself, I know how alarming the situation like this sounds,” Bach said, “especially given the recent tragedy that took place in Michigan.”
At Oxford High School in Michigan on Dec. 1, four students were shot and killed and other students were injured.
As Bach concluded his YouTube video, he began to tear up, and said: “I want you to know that I will be at school tomorrow ready to serve your students, confident in their safety and security, and I hope your students are there and ready to learn also. Take care.”
To view Bach’s full message to parents, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Powe6Yk-ZU
To share information of threats or other related concerns, contact the high school’s main office at 651-351-8040 or the Oak Park Heights Police Department at 651-439-4723.