A 17-year-old has been arrested after a threat was made against a central Alberta high school, one that led to a lockdown at the school and a raid of the teen’s house, officials say.
The male teenager, who can’t be identified under youth justice laws, made “an alleged threat of violence against Ponoka Composite High School,” the school board said in a written statement.
RCMP were dispatched to the school, which was put into lockdown before students were sent home at 11 a.m. local time.
Mounties said they arrested the teen at his home in Ponoka, about an hour south of Edmonton. Guns, including an unspecified “high powered rifle,” were “found in the youth’s possession,” RCMP said, but he was arrested without incident.
The teen was charged with uttering threats, unsafe storage of a firearm and possession of weapons dangerous to the public peace. He’s scheduled to appear in court Dec. 28.
A town official said it wasn’t clear whether police think the young man had planned to storm the school, or whether the response was out of an abundance of caution. RCMP Sergeant Josée Valiquette, a spokeswoman for Alberta’s main K-Division detachment, declined to comment on the case, saying only there’s no risk to public safety.
It wasn’t the only threat to trigger an Alberta school closure this week in the aftermath of the massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
Riverview Middle School in Devon, Alta., just west of Edmonton, was on alert Thursday after the discovery of a “disturbing comment on Facebook referencing a possible act of violence” and made by a student, according to a school board statement. Officials found “no indication that this person was to carry out the threat,” and “at no point was the safety of children and the schools staff in jeopardy in relation to this individual’s comments.” The school was open as usual Friday, but the same student’s previous school cancelled its Christmas concert Thursday evening as a precaution. “Given the heightened anxiety around student safety at schools in the wake of what occurred in the United States last week, we thought it important to inform you of what has occurred,” the Black Gold Regional Schools division said in a letter to parents.
A Medicine Hat, Alta., school was closed Friday as a “precautionary measure,” after a threat later identified as “a low risk to students and staff,” Superintendent Grant Henderson wrote in a letter posted on Crescent Heights High School’s website.
Two high schools were closed in Rocky Mountain House, Alta., on Friday due to “ potentially threatening situation,” the public and Catholic school boards said in a joint statement. The closure was the “most appropriate decision given the gravity of recent events,” the school boards said.
Schools are erring on the side of caution, said Jacquie Hansen, president of the Alberta School Boards Association.
“Obviously there’s a little bit of sensitivity heightened right now because of the Sandy Hook incidents,” Ms. Hansen said, adding the details of each case are still unclear. “I mean, are these hoaxes or what? It’s going to be a good time for schools to revisit their lockdown to procedures, and a good chance to talk to parents and reassure them about the procedures.”