Viral post forces schools into lockdown.

February 23, 2018

Viral post forces schools into lockdown.

#OceanaCountyNews

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

HART — Hart High School went into a “soft lockdown” Friday, Feb. 23, just one day after Shelby High School was also in “soft lockdown” mode.

There was no real threat to either school as both incidents were determined to be fake.

In the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, communities across the nation are on edge.

Thursday’s incident at SHS “stemmed from a nationwide viral post in Ohio,” said Shelby Police Chief Ryan Furman. “It was tracked to a 17-year-old female who made a fake account.”

In addition to Michigan, the viral post affected schools in several states, Furman said, including Ohio, Illinois, Alabama and Virginia. The FBI was involved in the investigation, and the teen has been apprehended, he said.

“It’s a very serious situation in light of recent events,” the chief said, referring to the Parkland shooting.

Although the incident that was investigated in Hart is not directly linked to the Shelby situation, it is connected, said Hart Public Schools Superintendent Mark Platt. It was a situation involving gossip and rumors, Platt said.

The superintendent posted the following message Friday on the school district’s community Facebook page:

“Hart High School did go into a soft lockdown this morning based on information the building received this morning. We have been working with local law enforcement on the issue, and we have determined the information is not factually based. We are working on an additional informational powerschool announcement for parents, staff and students.

“As an extra layer of caution, the high school will remain in a soft lockdown for the rest of the day. All evening events are still on for tonight.”

Shelby High School went into soft lockdown, also called “shelter in place,” Thursday morning after a high school student received the viral post, said Superintendent Tim Reeves. Reeves contacted district parents at about 3 p.m. Thursday via automated message. He said the Facebook message the student received “spoke about a shooting and had ‘SHS’ in the message, possibly meaning Shelby High School.”

The student contacted Principal Fran Schamber and the school then went into soft lockdown, Reeves said. Michigan State Police and Shelby Police Department then responded to the school.

“Before 11 a.m. law enforcement at the state, county, and local level determined the posting of the perceived threat was not credible and part of a fake posting that went viral. The lockdown was lifted.”

Chief Furman then held an assembly with the student body and explained what had happened and why the school was placed into lockdown.

Furman and Reeves are pleased with the students’ response to the potential threat. “They brought this to the school officials’ attention. Kudos to them,” Furman said. The chief said he thanked the students for acting appropriately.

“All of our staff at the high school did a great job with responding to the perceived situation, acting with safety in mind and doing so quickly,” Reeves said.

Reeves assures that all entrances to district buildings are secure.

“We didn’t have a viral post out of state,” Platt said. “But because of the proximity of the schools (Shelby and Hart), rumors started branching off on social media and text. Confusion really fuels concerns,” he said.

It was reported to the school office at 8 a.m., Platt said. He immediately contacted Hart Police Chief Juan Salazar, and they began an investigation.

A “soft lockdown” is enacted when school officials believe “there is a reason to use an extra layer of caution,” he said, “but there is no imminent threat.”

A “hard lockdown” is imposed when there is an imminent threat, Platt explained.

A “soft lockdown” reduces traffic flow in and out of the building and sometimes it involves law enforcement as it did Friday. Traffic flow of students in and out of classrooms and bathrooms is also minimized. “There is a general reason to believe it’s not going to escalate.” The “soft lockdown” involves more people watching entrances and doors, yet “trying to conduct business as usual.”

In the five years Platt has been the superintendent at Hart, this was the second “soft lockdown” in that time frame.

Powerschool announcements about the situation were sent via text, email and voice to parents and staff. Platt made an announcement to the students and staff via the PA system as well.

On a normal day at HHS, security is very tight with its new system thanks to the recent building improvements. A visitor cannot get into the locked building without permission. “On a normal day, you can get into the lobby, but you can’t get into the building,” Platt said. A visitor must press a buzzer to seek access. Once inside, they can only go as far as the school office, which is a “controlled environment,” he said. “We determine if you’re going to go any farther.”

The school’s number-one priority is to “assess the situation and maintain safety,” he said. Communication comes after that.

Platt said he is pleased that the school district’s relationship with HPD as well as the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office is very good. A police presence will remain at the school the rest of the day and throughout the evening for the basketball game and Snowcoming dance.

“It isn’t because we think there is a threat,” he said. “It’s to be a deterrent if someone wants to be a copy cat.”

“The department takes this information very seriously and will continue an investigation into this complaint,” said Chief Salazar

“The incident reported to the Hart Police Department was similar in nature to the incident that Shelby Police Department received yesterday… which stemmed from a threat originating from the State of Ohio.

“The Hart Police Department would like to recognize the Hart Public School system on how properly it handled this threat,” Salazar said. “The Hart Public School system (staff) did exactly what they were trained to do in such a situation. It is comforting to know that our Hart Public School system is serious about the safety and wellbeing of our students and faculty.”

This story is copyrighted © 2017, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

 

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