Schools review safety policies as a string of copycat shooting threats sweeps Green Country.
In the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a string of online shooting threats has affected multiple Green Country schools, including Tulsa Public Schools.
As of February 23, threats had been made on social media platforms against nine Green Country schools, according to a NewsOn6 report. Many schools went on full or modified lockdowns as a result.
A 14-year-old Tulsa junior high school student faces a felony charge after making a threat on social media. Several Snapchat posts, including one with a gun emoji and the words “Coming hardcore tomorrow Webster High School and Rogers,” caused lockdowns and a police presence at Webster Junior High.
Tulsa Public Schools investigated a threat made Thursday night against the Central High basketball team and, as a precaution, had a security guard travel with the team to an out-of-town game.
A threat against East Central High School resulted in the February 27 arrest of a 17-year-old and his relative. The threat, made on Facebook, included the phrase “Yall that claim to be shooters better pull through 100%.” Officers recovered several guns from the teen’s home.
Other Tulsa area and Green Country schools have also been affected by threats of violence.
The Bixby Police Department received a tip consisting of an Instagram post threatening, “Union, then on to Bixby.” While police don’t believe this was a credible threat, both Union Public Schools and Bixby Public Schools were placed on lockdown for a day.
Berryhill Public Schools in Tulsa County was investigated due to a Snapchat video that said someone was going to shoot up the high school. Several threats were also alleged against Owasso high schools, all of which were thoroughly investigated.
Alice Robertson Junior High in Muskogee was placed on lockdown due to social media threats. Two students had previously been arrested at the school for bringing a handgun on campus.
Coweta Police arrested two students of Donald P. Sloat Junior High who did not possess weapons but admitted to making threats. An arrest was also made in a threat against Dove Science Academy. The suspect, a 15-year-old student, admitted to threatening a violent act as a joke.
In light of shooting threats in Tulsa and across the country, members of school administration are reviewing school policy for online threats and active shooter situations.
Dove Science Academy Superintendent Umit Alpaslan noted, “In light of last week’s school shooting in Florida, copycat threats are not uncommon. However, we must treat each threat with vigilance.”
Tulsa Public Schools superintendent Deborah Gist told NewsOn6 that “very strong emergency plans” in case of a shooter are being reviewed. Gist has included the mayor and police chief in these discussions.
“We need to look into ‘How do we make sure that people can know where to report [warning signs]’ and what do we do in order to respond,” she said.
While 36 armed police officers and security guards are currently assigned to protect Tulsa Public Schools, this number could be reduced by budget cuts, estimated in the range of $12 million.
Local mother Mary LeClair commented last March about budget cuts affecting security, saying, “It really scares me, especially with all these school shootings.”
Concerns were also raised when the parent of a Thoreau Middle School student in Tulsa reported a threat a child made to the school last November. She told FOX23 that Tulsa Public Schools didn’t respond.
The district claims to have never received her initial report and has since reached out to her.
In a February 26 statement, Tulsa Public Schools said, “We take these kinds of incidents seriously and respond urgently. It is important that our students, families and larger community understand that regardless of whether a post was intended as a joke or to express anger or frustration, the consequences can include arrest and criminal charges.”
The question of how to respond to threats and active shooter situations has also been on the minds of those in higher education.
In a video message sent to TU affiliates on March 2, Clancy noted TU’s prevention efforts including a new residential housing staffing structure, increased mental health outreach and the addition of staff to both the Counseling Center and the Center for Student Academic Support. Mental health outreach, Clancy said, “is a key risk indicator that we follow up on at all of our University of Tulsa board meetings.”
Clancy said that Campus Security officers work very closely with the Tulsa Police Department to train for active shooter situations. TU campus security staff are authorized to train others in ALICE, an active shooting training program.
The first installation of the ALICE program will take place at Fisher South Hall on March 14 at 6:00 p.m. and is open to the TU community.
TU works closely with the Tulsa Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Marshall’s office to monitor for threats not unlike the social media threats made against Tulsa area high schools. The school is also part of a National Alert Network and TU staff have High Level Security Alert Status, which, Clancy explained, “is part of working with these agencies.”
Clancy concluded the video by explaining the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s current active shooter recommendations: run, hide and fight, in that order.
“In the past, it used to be shelter in place. But now, it’s more active on our part,” Clancy said.
In the event of an active shooter, TU affiliates would receive an Emergency Communication System Alert via email, text and TU social media accounts, at which point they should follow the run/hide/fight procedure.