East Washington Schools in Indiana cancels class after social media threats

PEKIN, Ind. (WDRB) -- Representatives of the East Washington Schools Corporation in Indiana decided to cancel school on Thursday after threats were made on social media against Eastern High School students.

The district said it takes these threats seriously, so officials decided to keep students at home while police investigate. Thursday became an e-learning day, with assignments posted online. 

On Thursday afternoon, East Washington Superintendent Dennis Stockdale said the threat was seen on the social media app Snapchat, but it originated on a foreign social media site where people can post anonymously. He called it a "generic, blanket threat," but added that officials felt it was credible enough to warrant cancellation of Thursday's classes.

It's unclear if the threat was made by a student, but he expects whoever made the threat "will be prosecuted to the fullest." Stockdale said the threat went to specific high school students, one of whom notified his or her parents, who in turn told a school employee.

"At this point, we don't know if it's a local post or if it is a generic post that could hit multiple places throughout the country," Stockdale said. "We've seen that in schools here in the past few years happening. So we need to identify that, work on that, and that's what's happening now through law enforcement and some of the other agencies."

He said law enforcement is involved and that the district has also enlisted help from groups that specialize in anonymous social media posts.

Stockdale said he feels officials "have a good handle" on the situation as police continue to investigate.

"It's been a very concerted effort for the safety of our kids, so we're confident tomorrow that we can bring kids back on campus while we continue the investigation into where these threats might have originated from," he said.

Classes will resume on Friday, but Stockdale said students are being asked not to bring backpacks to school. If backpacks are brought, he said they will be searched as they arrive at school.

There will be "a much stronger presence" with police on campus, he said.

"We're going to ask kids to do things a little differently tomorrow," Stockdale said. "We're going to ask parents to do things a little differently. I'm asking parents to be patients because we anticipate it may take a little bit longer to get the kids where they need to be in the morning, but we can ensure their safety, and that's first."

Brandynn Sullivan, a parent, said the threat, coupled with the lack of information, has her on edge. 

"It makes your stomach go into your throat," she said. "It gives you a fear that is unexplainable -- that there's someone out there that is wanting to hurt children and your child goes here. The thought is unthinkable. It's like, how? Why?"

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