Online threats force more school district closings

The Detroit News

School districts in Redford Township, Oak Park, Hazel Park and Warren were closed Friday after anonymous threats made on social media, while a phone threat led to the late-morning closure of Anchor Bay High School north of New Baltimore.

In Redford, “it is important to stress that we believe these threats are not credible,” said a joint statement by police Chief Eric Pahl and superintendents Sarena Shivers of Redford Union School District and Brian Galdes of South Redford School District.

The two Redford districts closed anyway “to allow time to continue a thorough investigation,” the statement said. They are scheduled to reopen Monday, when “social workers and counselors will be on hand in both districts to support students and staff throughout the school day.”

The threat there was made on an anonymous messaging app called Lipsi, and a potential $500 reward has been offered to “the first person who comes forward with an original threat message through the Lipsi anonymous app (not a screen shot).”

Redford Union High School had been closed Thursday after operating on “soft lockdown” Wednesday because of a different threat.

The Oak Park School District began its shutdown Thursday, as did the Frederick Douglass International Academy in the city.

A 14-year-old district student was arrested in connection with threats of violence at several district schools, city spokeswoman Denise DeSantis said.

The threat to “shoot up” several schools were circulated through several social media channels, DeSantis said, and the girl was arrested and remains in custody pending presentation to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office for appropriate charges.

“We take each and every threat to the safety of our community members and our schools very seriously,” said Oak Park City Manager Erik Tungate. “Our children’s safety is an absolute top priority.”

The Oak Park School District was closed Thursday and Friday as a result of the threat. Police encouraged parents to talk to their children about the seriousness of such threats, to report them and the possible consequences. To report concerns, residents can call (248) 691-7520 or make them in person at the police station.

Last week, Oak Park added a community resource officer position to expand police presence in schools.

Authorities also arrested a student in the Holly school district in connection with an online threat.

Holly Police Chief Michael Story said Kenneth Parks, 17, was charged by video arraignment with making the threat “I feel like shooting up a school today” to his Snapchat followers, most of whom were Holly students, on Thursday. Story said students relayed the threat to a school resource officer, who located Parks and another teenager in a car.

Parks is charged with malicious use of a telecommunications device, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. He was arraigned before 52-2 District Court Magistrate Daniel Schouman, who set a $50,000 personal bond, with GPS tether required. Release conditions include that Parks is not allowed on any school property or to possess firearms.

The closings come a day after Detroit police Chief James Craig addressed media members, saying his department had investigated 23 threats in the previous 24 hours.

Speaking at an unrelated event Thursday, Superintendent Nikolai Vitti of the Detroit Public Schools Community District said he had recently perused his two teenagers’ text messages.

“Our parents have to monitor social media,” he said, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem.

Vitti said his district keeps in contact with the FBI and local police. Given a credible threat, “I would not hesitate to cancel school.”

Hazel Park Schools received a threat via social media Thursday afternoon that prompted Friday’s closing. A message from the district on Facebook said a decision about Monday would be made over the weekend.

In Warren, Fitzgerald Public Schools closed for the second straight day as police investigate an online threat, according to interim Superintendent Laurie Fournier.

Hamtramck High School, Horizon High School and the Hamtramck High Community Center reopened Friday. A juvenile has been arrested for making the phone call that prompted Thursday’s closings; he faces charges of making a terroristic threat or false report of terrorism, a 20-year felony.

Staff writer Mike Martindale and Associated Press contributed.