Threats close several Metro Detroit schools

Holly Fournier, and James David Dickson

A series of threats have closed some Metro Detroit schools Monday while others have remained open with enhanced security, according to officials.

University Prep Schools are closed after “a threat made on U Prep Schools and two other local school districts,” CEO Mark Ornstein said in a statement posted early Monday to the schools’ Facebook page.

The charter system encompasses two districts and seven campus serving K-12 students in Detroit, according to its Facebook page.

“While we believe this is not a credible threat, we erred on the side of caution by closing the that the proper authorities may investigate,” Ornstein said.

The threat came in via Instagram near midnight Sunday and mentioned University Prep by name, Ornstein told The Detroit News.

In a case of “see something, say something,” it was students who first noticed the threat, Ornstein said. They communicated with teachers and administrators and the school was quickly closed. Phone calls, social media updates via Facebook, emails and robo-calls went out to notify the parents of the 3,500 students in the U Prep system.

“It says a lot that our students felt confident enough to bring it up, and we were able to act quickly,” Ornstein said.

Ornstein confirmed the Instagram name of the suspected threat-maker, but the page had been removed by 9 a.m. Monday morning. The News is not naming the account because the person has not yet been identified or charged with a crime.

Ornstein added that while the school system did not believe the threat to be credible, it was better to act with caution. U Prep is working with Detroit police to identify the person who issued the threat.

Meanwhile, a “serious threat against Lake Orion High School” has closed that school Monday, according to school officials.

“The district is working with the Oakland County Sheriff's Office regarding the situation,” officials said in a statement on the Lake Orion Community Schools website. Other district schools remained open.

The closure Monday pushed end-of-term exams to Tuesday and Wednesday, officials said.

Lincoln High School in Warren’s Van Dyke Public Schools also is closed Monday due to a threat, according to school officials.

“There was a possible threat and we are investigating it,” said Joan Russ, administrative assistant to Superintendent Joe Pius. “It was something on social media.”

A voicemail message at the school acknowledged the closure.

“There is no school for students today at Lincoln High School,” an official said in the school’s pre-recorded voice mail message dated Monday “The rest of Van Dyke Public Schools are open today but Lincoln High School is closed due to a building problem.”

In Detroit, Cass Technical High School remained open Monday despite an “alleged threat” made against the school, Detroit Public School officials said on its Facebook page. The district is working with Detroit police and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to “ensure that the Cass Tech campus will be safe for all students, staff and the public.”

District spokeswoman Michelle Zdrodowski on Monday confirmed that the threat came in via social media but declined to elaborate with further details. Cass opened Monday morning with “an increased police presence to ensure that students, teachers and staff remained safe,” she said.

Zdrodowski connected the threat at Cass to those issued to other local school systems.

“We weren’t alone in this,” Zdrodowski said, while crediting the district’s “fully functional, authorized” police force with identifying the threat and securing the building. “They did their job.”

Van Buren Public Schools also remained open Monday after its schools were targeted by an alleged social media threat, said Pam Johnson, administrative assistant to Superintendent Michael Van Tassel.

“We were mentioned along with several other schools districts in a threat,” Johnson said. “The police felt the threat was not credible and therefore we held school.”

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