COLORADO SPRINGS — Parents rushed to pick up their children from D20's Chinook Trail Middle School on Tuesday after rumors of threats spread around social media.
Academy School District 20 says the threats began to circulate over the weekend and continued to circulate into Tuesday morning, but the threats were investigated by the Colorado Springs Police Department and deemed non-credible.
According to the district, more parents came forward Tuesday night to report new threats seen on social media related to the middle school and elementary school. Again, CSPD investigated the threats, identified the students involved, and have deemed there isn't a credible threat to the campus.
"The first set of threats that came in was from an individual who had posted photos of guns and weapons on social media. Also, some language was threatening, and those posts weren't recent. Some of those went back weeks that we had just found out about. The second was a post online made against a teacher that included imagery of that teacher's classroom," said Allison Cortez, Chief Communication Officer, Academy School District 20.
CSPD says that they received dozens of Safe2Tell tips, but that many of them lacked context and were inaccurate. CSPD added that after the investigation they found that many of the concerns were a "widespread circulation of rumors."
CSPD listed some of the photos that caused concern and explained why they were found not credible.:
- Photos being shared of firearms were taken more than a year ago and were in no way related to any threats to the school. There was also a photo of a student with a knife, which was also found to be taken more than two months ago at a different location that was not the school. However, because many people screenshotted these photos, many believed they were new and shared them on social media claiming they were part of a recent threat.
- One photo was posted depicting a student with a birthday cake accompanied by a caption that read “three more days,” attributing the countdown to their birthday. However, someone on social media made their own assumption that the photo must have been associated with a threat and a school shooting would occur in three days. This spread quickly on social media. CSPD says that school resource officers have continued to follow up on these claims, and nobody can say how this connection was made.
- Another concern was about a “hit list” that students and parents tied to the original photos. CSPD says that after the investigation, they found that students were speaking amongst themselves and created a list of who they thought might be a target in a school shooting if a threat was carried out by a specific person. CSPD reiterated that no “hit list” was ever created.
A note to parents from the school principals reads in part, "we will continue to stay in close communication with both the ASD20 Security Team and CSPD. Today is business as usual at CTMS and CTES. However, if you prefer to keep your student home, we completely understand and respect your decision. These are incredibly challenging situations, and they can change rapidly. Please continue to let us know if you see or learn any new information. And please encourage your students not so share these types of posts, rather ask them to share the information with a trusted adult."
"Our middle school is actually going to have a town hall in the next day or two about this whole situation. We are going to talk about what happened, and what we can do moving forward to ensure that we don't make the problem worse. We know when these things happen online, we need people to see something, and say something. Do not see something, and spread it all over the web. When we re-share these things, it makes the situation worse and makes it hard for us to investigate," said Cortez.
News5 spoke to concerned parents who learned about the concerns on Tuesday.
"First is it good to be cautious, and second is they are probably not going to go back to mathematics at the end of the day so let's go ahead and grab her," said Ken Harmon, Chinook Trail Middle School parent.
He says he doesn't know much about the threats except it may have been a shooting threat. He says there hasn't been anything like this at the school before.
"I've been here the last three years and it is so laid back and mellow," said his daughter Grace.
Ken says the administration did a good job de-escalating the situation and helping keep parents calm while they picked up their children.
"It seemed to be a pretty relaxed atmosphere," said Ken.
"The safety of each of our students and staff is paramount. As such, we worked with Academy District 20 Security who has been working with the Colorado Springs Police Department," said Tom Andrew, the Principal of Chinook Trail Middle School.
The district did not say what type of threats were made or if any students received disciplinary action.
The panic at the school came just a day after Vista Ridge, a school in neighboring District 49, was closed following 'escalative assaultive behavior.' In the Vista Ridge case, a student was arrested.
It is also just a week since the deadly school shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan that claimed the lives of four teenagers.