NEWAYGO, Mich. — Within three days, four threats have been identified in the Newaygo public school district. Wednesday morning, the Middle and High schools were briefly put on lockdown, and the elementary school was put into secure mode, a lower form of safety precaution.
Of the two threats identified Wednesday, one was made to the middle school, the other towards the high school. The first was a Facebook post reported to school officials threatening the high school. While that threat was being investigated, a verbal threat was made by a student inside the middle school.
Though the Facebook post was reported Wednesday, the original post was made in October, which Newaygo Police Chief Georgia Andres says was unknown at the beginning of the investigation.
Just before 10 a.m., the district informed parents of the lockdown and secure mode at the schools, asking parents not to pick up students but if they had concerns to meet at a church in the city.
“I can't even go get my kid because she’s safer in a building that was threatened,” said Amber Heist, a concerned parent. “I don’t understand that.”
For both lockdown and Secure Mode, parents are unable to pick children up from school. City vehicles blocked the entrance to all of the driveways leading to the schools.
Lockdown is the highest level of security at Newaygo Schools and is reserved for threats perceived to be actively endangering student safety. In a lockdown, education stops, and students and staff are told to Run, Hide, Fight – getting to a safe place as quickly as possible.
In Secure Mode, education can continue. While threats are being investigated, Secure mode means all doors to the buildings are locked, and entry and exit are not allowed. Outdoor activities such as recess are stopped, and hallway activities may be stopped as well. Staff are ready to escalate to a lockdown procedure if necessary.
“We want it to stop,” said Jeff Wright, Newaygo’s Superintendent. “We want our kids to be able to come to school safely, to receive the public education they deserve.”
Parents we spoke to believe students are making threats to chaptalize on the heightened fear following the School Shooting that killed four in Oxford Michigan earlier this month. Some said students making threats need to be punished, and legal action makes sense. Others say it’s best to address each student's mental health as the pandemic has to more stress and anxiety.
“We need to all reign our kids in a little bit more,” Heist said. “They think it’s a joke. They think it’s funny to joke about this weeks after kids lost their lives at another high school.”
Chief Andres said all four students who made threats have been identified, and have been “transferred to the prosecutor.” Superintendent Wright said these threats are a not just hindrance to the district’s ability to educate but could carry up to 20 years in prison on a felony charge.
“The message to these kids who think this is a joke, or a form of entertainment or a way to get out of school,” Wright said. “there are life long ramifications to the decisions they make in the spur of the moment and they will be dealt with.”
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