PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Social media threats have forced the closure of several schools in Kalamazoo County in the past two days and law enforcement officers are warning the consequences could be severe for whoever is responsible.
Portage Public Schools closed Portage Northern High School on Tuesday after threats surfaced on social media. According to Superintendent Mark Bielang, the district also decided to close the surrounding schools in the north campus area as a precaution.
“We thought … because of the proximity of schools to one another that it would be best to use a campus approach,” Bielang told News 8.
The Portage Director of Public Safety Nicholas Armold is confident investigators will track down the person responsible.
“People don’t understand that law enforcement and the school districts don’t take these threats lightly. A majority of them, a vast majority of them, are hoaxes, they’re not real, but we’re not willing to take that chance to put our children at risk,” Armold said.
Parents in Kalamazoo Public Schools woke up Tuesday to a phone call notifying them of a new social media threat against Loy Norrix High School, Kalamazoo Central High School and Linden Grove Middle School. Those schools, along with Hillside Middle School, were closed Monday due to threats but the district decided to keep them open Tuesday with additional security.
“There will be law enforcement officers on hand for the day. Also, we will begin by having bomb detecting dogs sweep these schools,” the phone message said.
Kalamazoo County Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Getting says the consequences for whoever is posting the threats will be severe.
“What is happening is not funny,” Getting said. “What is happening is a crime.”
He said whoever is responsible could face felony charges and would have to deal with the long-term challenges that can create on their record.
“The most common is a new law that went into effect last spring that makes making a threat of using a firearm, explosive or other weapon against a student or school a one-year misdemeanor,” Getting said, “and if there’s evidence of the specific nature of the threat or any action taken in support of that threat, it makes it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.”
Parchment Schools released students at 1 p.m. Tuesday because of a similar threat.