Dozens of Southeast Michigan school districts, including some of the biggest in the state, are either sending students home early or canceling class entirely amid a slew of complaints and threats of violence circulating online in the wake of the Oxford school mass shooting this week.
Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham said of the complaints his office has investigated, they were not deemed to be credible. But the complexity of the situation amid the fallout from the violence that struck a local district underscores the pressure that both schools and law enforcement are under.
"What we're finding is there's two ways (that threats) are happening," Wickersham said. "One is everybody is aware of what happened and is believing that it could happen in their school and they're thinking about a moment when somebody may have said something off-color, may have made a remark about hurting somebody, and they're now reporting those (threats)."
The other kind of threat being investigated is the ones posted on social media.
"Overnight in less than a 24-hour period, we had 28 complaints that came into the sheriff's office," said Wickersham. "We had to follow up on each one of those."
Among the districts that send kids home early Thursday were Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, which cited "fear and anxiety" at the campus causing "significant disruption" to learning.
"Throughout the evening, we have been working in cooperation with the Canton Township Police Department to investigate several social media posts involving threats of violence at P-CEP. These disturbing posts have been circulated among P-CEP students and appear to be re-posts from other areas."
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As of 9:15 a.m., some 60 schools had dismissed students early or told them not to come in. In Sterling Heights, threats were found written on the bathroom wall of the Heritage Junior High School. The school will have a heightened police presence Thursday. The school sent a letter to parents saying it was working with police to find who wrote the threat.
Among the largest schools that won't have class Thursday include Rochester, Troy, Clarkston, and Walled Lake. A full list can be found here.
Wickersham said that despite the unprecedented nature of the attack, it's not unusual to see an increase in activity from copycats who think it may be funny to post about violence. But even joking threats are taken seriously and can lead to felony charges against teens.
"We always have to be thinking and be two or three steps ahead of everybody so we can keep our community safe and keep the schools safe," said Wickersham.