Another school threat in northern Michigan, and now a teenager is facing charges for his threat against classmates at a Traverse City school.
The teenager, from Benzie County, is in jail after new threats he allegedly made over the weekend, which caused several schools to go into a “Secure Mode” on Monday. But it’s not the first time, according to investigators.
Grand Traverse County Assistant Prosecutor Kyle Attwood says, “The case originally involved a threat that was made actually a month or two ago.” That threat happened on a school bus on the way to school, Attwood says. This latest incident is part of an ongoing investigation with the same student at Creekside School, formerly the New Campus school that’s part of Northwest Education Services, Traverse City’s ISD.
Attwood says, “The threats specifically were fairly direct… there were threats to a number of students.”
While the threat was directed at specific students, with no sign of the teen who made the threat, Creekside went into Secure Mode on Monday, and so did several nearby TCAPS schools. Attwood says the threats “were credible enough that we felt the need to act immediately, in concert with both city police here as well as the schools.”
Traverse City Police Chief Jeff O’Brien says, “With this incident here, we just felt that, just for the safety of everyone, (to put the schools in Secure Mode), for the school and the safety of this young man. That’s why we did what we did.”
Attwood adds, “I think a lot is done out of an abundance of caution. You kind of draw a perimeter around an issue and make a call as to what’s necessary to protect kids. Obviously in a situation like this we err on the side of caution. I think everyone’s number one priority is the safety of children in the area.”
Chief O’Brien agrees. “It’s a lot of resource, it’s a lot of personnel to do that. These are hard policies and procedures to put into place because they’re all different. Each incident is always different…. Every one of them has different levels of threat. And the assessment can only be garnered through investigation.”
Northwest Education Services Spokesman Ryan Jarvi says, “From what’s gone on nationally everyone is kind of on high alert, there’s a lot of anxiety around that. And that’s totally understandable.”
The Creekside School has a School Resource Officer, who had already been working a case with this particular student. A safety plan was already in place, according to the TCPD. Northwest Education Services says SROs are a vital asset for the district. “We do have a school resource officer who is on campus here… and we do have that good relationship with law enforcement to be able to respond as quickly as we can,” Jarvi says. “Having the School Resource Office is critical to that security and maintaining a presence on campus and building those relationship with students and staff.”
The Police Chief says this case highlights the need for anyone with any information about a school threats to come forward. It’s also increasingly important to take all school threats seriously. “Every one of them has different levels of threat. And the assessment can only be garnered through investigation.” Attwood adds, “We can only act on information we have. And if people don’t speak up and come forward we’re not able to do anything about it.” is one such resource for students and parents.
“I would just also ask parents to talk to their children about the importance of not making copycat threats. There are serious legal consequences that can come from that… these are serious situations. They use a lot of resources. They distract students from learning and education,” Jarvi adds.
There was an emergency court hearing on Monday, and the 16 year old was found and arrested Monday afternoon. Charges are still pending. Chief O’Brien says, “Hopefully we can get this young person some help that they need.” As far as Attwood is concerned, “Now, in the age we live in unfortunately, there’s a realization as to what can happen if these things aren’t acted on quickly. So… these aren’t jokes. These aren’t a way to blow off steam. They’re criminal. They’re going to be dealt with swiftly and severely.”
The teen will stay in custody until at least next week when another court hearing will determine what’s next.