Blackfoot School District cancels classes, final exams in wake of school shooting threat

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal  The Blackfoot School District decided to cancel school for two days because of an alleged threat from a teenage boy on Wednesday. Final exams were also canceled.

Doug Lindley/Idaho State Journal
The Blackfoot School District decided to cancel school for two days because of an alleged threat from a teenage boy on Wednesday. Final exams were also canceled.

By Journal Staff

BLACKFOOT — In the wake of a school shooting threat, Blackfoot School District officials took the unprecedented steps this week of shutting down all schools for two days and canceling final exams.

They decided to take the actions after a student allegedly made threats on Wednesday about a school shooting, which then led to additional concerns that others may be involved.

Superintendent Brian Kress said the physical and mental wellbeing of students is of paramount importance.

“My hope is (that parents) believe and trust that we take these incidents seriously,” he said.

On Wednesday, Blackfoot police took a 14-year-old male into custody for threatening violence on school grounds. They say the student did not actually have access to any firearms.

But then there was an additional report about the possibility of other students being involved. That prompted district officials to close all schools on Thursday.

“The information came to our attention through social media. The school administration and local law enforcement immediately began an investigation into this new information. Unfortunately, we were unable to quickly validate or dismiss this new information. Therefore, the decision was made to err on the side of caution and cancel school for Thursday, March 1st,” a post on the school district’s Facebook page states. “Early this morning, local law enforcement informed the district administration that the additional threat was not viable. The new information arose from a misunderstanding regarding the initial incident. We apologize for the alarm and disruption this incident has caused.”

Caroline Young, the mother of a senior boy who attends Blackfoot High School, appreciated the district’s response.

“This is very concerning as a parent with a child in the High School,” she wrote in a Facebook post. “Regardless of the misunderstanding thank you for not ignoring it and keeping our kids safe!!”

Police say multiple comments and rumors appeared on social media sites, unnecessarily causing fear and anxiety in the community. They encourage people to contact law enforcement officials directly when they have concerns so that the proper authorities can follow up.

“We take reports of violence seriously with the safety of all citizens being our primary duty and responsibility,” according to a Blackfoot Police Department news release.

Although there weren’t any kindergarten through eighth grade classes scheduled to take place on Friday as the trimester drew to a close, the high school students were expected to attend classes to take final exams, district officials said. But they decided to cancel all classes on Friday as well as the exams due to the concerns that arose this week.

“In discussions with the Blackfoot High School administration, we have decided to exempt all students from taking their final exams, unless the final exam is needed to improve their grade or required as part of a dual credit class,” according to a district Facebook post. “It is our sentiment that it is not in the best interest of students to ask them to complete a final exam in light of recent events. If a student desires or is required to take a final exam, the scheduling of that exam will be discussed during the first week of the third trimester.”

The recent threat came on the heels of not only a Valentine’s Day massacre at a Florida high school, but also school and/or student threat incidents occurring in Aberdeen, Twin Falls, Wendell, Challis, Gooding and at multiple schools in Minidoka and Cassia counties during the past several days.

Kress said the threat at Blackfoot High School, which stemmed from a conversation between some students in a classroom, was reported on Wednesday and was immediately addressed. He said there were never any weapons or ammunition on the school’s grounds.

Police agreed.

“Also we have concluded the juvenile in custody did not have a weapon at school and at no time yesterday were students or staff in danger as it relates to this incident,” according to the police department news release. “As soon as the report was made to the school resource officer he immediately made contact with the juvenile and detained him. The police department and Blackfoot School District cooperated in this investigation.”

Kress said he’s grateful that everyone worked together to report and quickly address the situation.

“I commend our students, staff and local law enforcement,” he said.