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Forum Communications, Published December 19 2012

Minn. schools dealing with rumors, threats

One arrest, rumors and reports of more potential school violence in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting caused disruptions in Minnesota schools Wednesday.

The Red Wing School District puts its facilities on lockdown after a student reported receiving a call threatening “Your school is next.”

In Hibbing, a 15-year-old Champlin boy was arrested after he showed up at Hibbing High School and a 27-inch pipe and 2½-inch knife were found on him.

Willmar Senior High Principal Paul Schmitz said students are upset by the news of the school shooting last week and funeral this week in Newtown, Conn., and that is feeding rumors of safety issues in that district. “It is hard to be a 13-, 14-, or 15-year-old kid and feel safe when you see that on TV,” he said.

The boy arrested in Hibbing had hitched a ride from a driver Wednesday morning, telling the man he was on his way to the school, according to the Hibbing Police Department. The driver, noticing the boy had a “cane of sorts” in his pants, notified police after dropping him off outside of Hibbing.

School district grounds crew had noticed “a suspicious male” approaching the main entrance and alerted other staff via radio, police said. He was escorted to the office where he was searched, according to a news release. The aluminum pipe and a silver folding knife were found on the boy.

Capt. Maryann Hooper said no students or faculty were in danger and the school didn’t go into lockdown mode. The department is requesting he be charged with possessing dangerous weapons on school property, attempted second degree assault and trespassing. The boy was taken to the Arrowhead Juvenile Detention Center in Duluth.

Hooper said the boy’s connection to Hibbing was through social media.

Social media helped and tension caused by the school shootings last week in Newtown, Conn., helped fuel rumors in Willmar, Schmitz said.

Parents posted on Facebook about their intentions to keep their kids home from school because of the rumors.

Willmar Police and district officials investigated rumors about safety issues in the district’s school buildings this week and have found no credible threats to the schools or the community.

Police Chief David Wyffels said the department had traced the sources of some of the rumors and taken action.

“We haven’t found one credible threat to anybody,” Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said Wednesday.

Kjergaard said he can understand why kids and parents are upset, but he asked them to “take a deep breath and ask yourself: Is that really true?” before spreading a rumor.

In Red Wing, southeast of the Twin Cities, schools were on lockdown Wednesday after a student reported receiving a threatening call..

Red Wing Police said a senior girl at Tower View Alternative School received a call Tuesday night from an unknown person who told her, “Your school is next.”

The phone number did not show up on the girl’s caller ID, but Police Chief Roger Pohlman said he was working with the county attorney to obtain a subpoena for the phone records to see if they will help with the investigation.

As the school day began, suspicious items were reported found on a Red Wing bus. A news release from Red Wing police said that the suspicious items found on the bus were bullets.

A student came forward early in the school day and told police that the .22-caliber rounds were his and that they were forgotten in his jacket after he had been coyote hunting.

Schmitz, in a letter to Willmar parents, said he understood their worries.

“It is a time of high anxiety for schools all around the country,” he said. “Given the horrible news all of us have seen, it is understandable that parents and students are feeling concerned about school safety and wonder if their school is safe.”