VAN WERT — A spate of social media threats had those involved with Van Wert, Spencerville, Shawnee and Crestview schools worried of late.
An unnamed Van Wert schools student was arrested Thursday and charged with second- and fourth-degree felonies after a posting on Instagram “Vw this is my only warning. This month your school will be disrupted, i will not feel pitty for what i am soon to do.”
This is just the latest in a series of threats made across the nation since the shooting in Florida where 17 people were killed on Valentine’s Day.
Wednesday night, a Facebook post had many concerned about a possible shooting that could happen Thursday at “SHS.” The threat was apparently started outside Ohio but concerned parents called the Shawnee Police and Spencerville Police wondering if something might happen at Shawnee High School or Spencerville High School. The threat was reportedly unfounded, although extra law enforcement were in place at both schools.
Crestview schools also dealt with a separate Instagram threat that resulted in a three-hour delay.
The Van Wert incident was discovered late Wednesday night.
“The police worked all night on it. Got a confession and charges were made,” said Staci Kaufman, interim superintendent for Van Wert schools.
The unnamed juvenile was charged with inducing panic involving a school and telecommunications harassment. The suspect made an initial court appearance Thursday afternoon in Van Wert Juvenile Court. Van Wert assistant prosecutor Steven Diller stated the juvenile may have made similar threats elsewhere in Ohio.
After Crestview’s delay, additional law enforcement officers were sent to the school to ensure the safety of the students and staff. The investigation into who was responsible for that threat is ongoing, and the juvenile arrested for the Van Wert threats has not been ruled out as a suspect in the Crestview threats.
Because of the threats, the decision was made early Thursday morning to close all the buildings in Van Wert schools.
“I got a phone call at 4 a.m. from our assistant superintendent who was contacted by police about 3 a.m. We were made aware there was a threat and we called the administrative team together as soon as we could this morning to discuss our options and met with the police department to find out all that we could so we could make an informed decision,” said Kaufman.
“We chose to close school, given the timing and the information we had — and we will always err on the side of caution. Today we felt that was best.”
Even though the students had the day off, staff and teachers did not.
They gathered at Niswonger Performing Arts Center at 10 a.m. to discuss the incident and review safety procedures.
“You can never rehearse too much and yet there are people who’ll say you can’t rehearse because you can’t really prevent a violent act if somebody’s intent on doing it, but we know, in reality, we can minimize the damage,” she said.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.