Threats prompt several W. MI districts to close Friday; more than 100 cancelations statewide

Michigan

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A day after copycat threats closed more than 60 schools on the east side of the state, the number of school closures grew to more than 100 districts statewide Friday, including several in West Michigan shut down “out of an abundance of caution.”

Fruitport Community Schools closed its buildings Friday “due to a threat of violence against the school,” the district website stated. The district’s Early Childhood Center is also closed and staff are asked to stay home.

Ionia Public Schools says the threat that prompted the district to close schools Friday was made toward the middle school.

The district is working with law enforcement to investigate and called off classes Friday. Ionia County Career Center also closed Friday because of the threat made against Ionia Public Schools.

In Allegan County, Wayland Union Middle School shifted from in-person classes to remote learning as a precaution because of a threat, according to the district website. The district superintendent said an investigation is underway and “nothing has been substantiated.”

Big Rapids Schools also closed its schools Friday after learning about “a potentially concerning statement” made Thursday by a high school student. That situation is also under investigation, the district said on its website.

Also in Mecosta County, Chippewa Hills School District confirmed to News 8 it’s closed Friday due to a threat.

In Berrien County, Watervliet Public Schools closed Friday “out of an abundance of caution.” The superintendent stated a message detailing the reasons was sent out to district parents.

“Any and all threats are taken seriously and will be investigated and forwarded to the prosecutor for review,” Berrien County Sheriff Paul Bailey said in a statement.

Berrien County officials said most of the threats were “baseless” and that some people responsible called police to say they were just joking. But authorities don’t think it’s funny.

“These type of threats are not a joke and are a crime,” Prosecutor Steve Pierangeli said in a statement. “If evidence is presented to the Prosecutor’s Office that meets the elements of a crime, charges will be filed. Threatening the safety of students and teachers in our schools is serious, and we will hold those responsible accountable.”

The Newaygo County prosecutor had a similar message:

“Every threat – even false reports or what a person might call a ‘joke’ – will continue to be fully investigated and evaluated for criminal charges,” Prosecutor Worth Stay said in a statement. “In light of the recent tragedy at Oxford High School, and the alarming increase in threats that Michigan schools have received in its wake, we remind the community that these crimes are never tolerated in Newaygo County. We urge parents, caregivers, friends, and all community-members to remain vigilant in recognizing warning signs and seeking help when it is needed.”

More than 80 districts in the metro Detroit area canceled classes Friday, according to Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV.

In mid-Michigan, all school superintendents in Genesee County agreed to cancel classes after many districts dealt with threats and rumors, according to WNEM.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard warned earlier this week that anybody who makes threats will face charges.

On Thursday, the Genesee County prosecutor announced he had charged a 17-year-old student of Flint Southwestern Classical Academy with one count of false threat of terrorism and one county of using a computer to commit a crime.

The prosecutor said the teen girl recorded a “rap-style message” on her phone that included threats of “shooting up the school ‘like Oxford.'” The 17-year-old then posted the video to social media.

The prosecutor said he had visited schools across the county in recent years, warning students who make threats – credible or not – would be prosecuted.

Both felony charges the Flint student faces carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.

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