Several Alberta schools closed Friday after threats, one teen arrested
Published Friday, December 21, 2012 9:49AM MST
Last Updated Friday, December 21, 2012 6:44PM MST
Just a week after the devastating school shooting in Connecticut, a number of threats have shut down several schools in Alberta Friday, including a school in Devon, and schools in Rocky Mountain House, Ponoka and Medicine Hat.
In Ponoka, a 17-year-old has been arrested and charges are pending after police found the teen had firearms and ammunition.
Ponoka RCMP made the arrest after officers investigated alleged threats involving a student at Ponoka Composite High School.
Schools in Ponoka activated their lock down procedures and RCMP were dispatched to area schools as a precaution on Friday morning.
Police said they found a 17-year-old man in his home, with firearms and ammunition in his possession.
Firearms included a .22 caliber and a high-powered rifle.
RCMP say the teenager was arrested without incident, and charges of uttering threats, unsafe storage of firearms and possession of weapons dangerous to public peace are pending.
A tentative court date has been scheduled for Dec. 28.
Meanwhile a school in Devon was closed Friday, after a threat was made on social media.
Black Gold Regional School officials say the threat, that children would be hurt at an unnamed school, was made on Facebook by a Grade 9 student from Riverview Middle School in Devon.
While no specific schools were mentioned in the social media post, Holy Spirit, a Kindergarten to Grade 8 school, cancelled its classes Friday as a precaution, because that’s where the student who made the post used to go to school.
The superintendent was notified about the incident on Wednesday.
The Evergreen Catholic Separate Regional Division No. 2 sent out a letter dated Thursday, which read:
"There is heightened anxiety around student safety at schools due to the circumstances that occurred in the United States last week."
As a result, classes Friday at Holy Spirit was cancelled. A Christmas concert at Holy Spirit planned for Thursday night had also been cancelled.
"Please know that the safety of students and staff is always a priority and we have many procedures in place to help ensure that everyone remains safe while on school property," the letter continues.
RCMP say they searched the student’s home and no firearms were found.
There was also no indication that the student was going to carry out the threat or had access to firearms.
Police say the safety of children at the schools was never in jeopardy.
While classes were cancelled with the Catholic board, schools in the Black Gold Regional School division remained open Friday.
“We will be following our student code of conduct in this regard,” said Norman Dargis with Black Gold Regional Schools.
“As to what the consequences will be, that is something we’ll deal with the parent and the student directly. We will work with the parents and the student to make sure all students are safe.”
Lana Francis, a local parent, said the threat is alarming.
“It’s scary that’s what it is. Especially with what has been going on in the States and throughout the whole year,” Francis said.
“I think everybody is kind of a little on edge right now.”
Brenda Preece, who has a granddaughter attending Riverview, was pleased with the police action and school precautions.
"It's reassuring that the schools and the RCMP and thet own kind of pulled together and followed it through," Preece said.
The youth who made the post is now under adult supervision.
RCMP continue to investigate in that case.
Two schools in Rocky Mountain House were also closed Friday.
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and Wild Rose Public Schools cancelled classes at St. Dominic Catholic High School and West Central High School "due to a potentially threatening situation involving the Confluence Campus in Rocky Mountain House."
Other Wild Rose Public Scools were all on lockdown as a precaution as well.
"Just as a precaution we've put them all into lock-down mode," said Brian Celli, superintendent of Wildrose Public Schools. "The outside doors are locked. There's a little bit more vigilance about who is coming and coming in the school."
An update posted before noon on the websites for the two schools, said that "subsequent investigation by the RCMP has determined that there is no immediate threat."
Crescent Heights High School in Medicine Hat was also closed Friday, as school officials and police investigated a possible threat.
"This was a precautionary measure only as the incident was defined as a low risk to students and staff," Superintendent Grant Henderson said in a statement posted to the school's website.
"However, as part of our ongoing committment to ensuring the safe learning environment, we take all issues that may affect school safety seriously and in a precautionary measure, Crescent Heights High School will be closed today."
These incidents come after Edmonton police charged two teenagers in two separate cases earlier this week for uttering threats via text message and in an online chat room.
Edmonton Police said any threat – whether it’s verbal or through social media – to a person, group or location, is a crime.
With files from Ashley Molnar