A Springfield High School student was arrested Thursday after police said she posted a Facebook threat about a school shooting that went viral, causing districts across Clark County and the U.S. to take precautions and many students to stay home.
Authorities declined to name the 16-year-old junior but Clark County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Travis Russell said she was charged with felony inducing panic in juvenile court.
Russell and Springfield Police Chief Lee Graf both declined to comment on the motives behind the post.
School threats aren’t a joke, Russell said, and anyone thinking about making threats shouldn’t do so.
“Every school threat is taken seriously and you cannot be dismissive,” Russell said. “It’s absolutely not funny. You can’t take this as a cavalier-type statement. You can’t have that attitude because people’s lives are at risk.”
The Facebook post was taken down soon after it was posted, Graf said, but it had already gone viral. The Springfield News-Sun was sent the post many times by concerned parents and community members.
“I will not be telling people what my name is, but I will bring a gun to school tomorrow, so be prepared to hear shoots,” the Facebook threat posted Wednesday said. “Yes, SHS is the school I want.”
The student was arrested at 10 a.m. Thursday at Springfield High School, Russell said. The sheriff’s office and Springfield Police Division executed a search warrant at a home on Tibbetts Avenue near Lincoln Elementary School around the same time, he said, and seized electronics that the student might have used to make the post.
No weapons were found at the home, Russell said.
Anyone who threatens the safety of children in Springfield will face consequences, Graf said.
“The public should know there has been arrest on this and we are going to prosecute this person to the fullest extent of the law because of the severity of this act,” Graf said. “In this day and age and in light of things that happened at schools, they are extremely serious. It causes fear and panic throughout the community and the consequences need to be serious.”
Law enforcement from the police division, the sheriff’s office, Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the FBI worked throughout Wednesday night and Thursday morning and found the threat not to be credible, Graf said.
Because of the vagueness of the post, Graf said, it was unclear which school the threat targeted. Students had saved it and reposted it online as a warning to other students, Graf said.
Many districts with schools matching the initials “SHS” took precautions.
“It was a fictitious account and it was shared approximately 11,000 times by yesterday evening,” Russell said. “The scope of this was enormous. It spanned approximately six states and multiple jurisdictions.”
News organizations from Alabama to California had posted stories about the threat, citing schools in their coverage area with the same initials.
“One of the biggest things that struck me was how fast this went viral,” Graf said. “We have taken calls from Mississippi and California informing us about the threat.”
The threat comes on the heels of an 8-year-old student who brought a gun in a backpack to Simon Kenton Elementary School on Tuesday. Rumors of a gun being found at the high school on Tuesday also circulated on social media. Those rumors were untrue, Springfield City School Superintendent Bob Hill said.
No students were ever in danger Thursday, Hill said. However, the threats prompted extra Springfield police officers to be posted at Springfield High School on Thursday.
“We take threats very seriously,” Hill said. “This affects many schools in Clark County — Springfield, Shawnee High School, Southeastern High School. This has some pretty serious and far-reaching ramifications.”
However, even with the added security, many students didn’t come to class, Hill said. He couldn’t give a specific number of absences but said attendance was “light” on Thursday.
“My smallest class today was like eight people,” high school student Trey Harper said. “So that was really weird. We didn’t do any work for any classes today except one of my classes so it’s been a little scary.”
Harper said he appreciated the hours of hard work that led to the arrest.
“I’m glad our staff never gave up and police, Springfield Police, never gave up to find who it was and keep us safe,” Harper said.
Southeastern Local Schools took similar precautions Thursday, Superintendent David Shea said.
“We have three South Charleston Police officers at our high school and two at Miami View Elementary School,” Southeastern Superintendent David Shea said.
Many students from Southeastern also elected to stay home Thursday, Shea said, a move he understands given the current climate and recent school shootings across the country.
Clark Shawnee Superintendent Gregg Morris said his district also took precautions.
“We worked closely with the sheriff’s office and followed their recommendations, including having additional law enforcement presence at the middle/high school campus,” Morris said.
Springfield police also sent officers to the Springfield-Clark County Career Technology Center on Thursday because of a vague threat posted on Snapchat.
The threat was posted on a group chat that had students from multiple tech centers across Ohio in it, CTC Director Michelle Patrick said. The threat was directed at a “SCCTC” and officials were concerned the threat was aimed at the local center.
However, police have arrested two suspects in that threat, both residing in Scioto County, Patrick said.