School shooting rumors in Kalispell unfounded; students disciplined

2012-12-17T20:04:00Z 2012-12-21T15:21:16Z School shooting rumors in Kalispell unfounded; students disciplinedBy TRISTAN SCOTT Missoulian The Billings Gazette
December 17, 2012 8:04 pm  • 

KALISPELL — Rumors and threats of a school shooting in Kalispell were disseminated by students online and by text message Sunday and Monday, prompting police and school officials to investigate the rumors and determine they are likely without merit.

According to school resource officer Jason Parce of the Kalispell Police Department, the rumors began with a student’s Facebook post about shootings that would supposedly occur at Glacier and Flathead high schools on Friday, Dec. 21. As the online thread grew, the rumor gained momentum, he said, and some parents responded by pulling their children out of school for the week.

The police department and school administrators collaborated to identify the students responsible for the comments, which were initially posted on Facebook at 6 a.m. Sunday, according to a news release from Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nasset.

Disciplinary action was taken against “those responsible for creating and fostering a dialogue which has created fear and anxiety in our school community,” the chief said.

“The rumors and comments appear to be without merit, and are prompted by the tragic events in Connecticut on Dec. 14, 2012, and the unwarranted sensationalism of Friday, Dec. 21, 2012,” Nasset wrote, referring to predictions of a Mayan apocalypse.

Criminal charges have not been filed against those responsible for initiating the rumor, which spread as students alerted one another by text message and word of mouth. Parce said the post had hundreds of comments, and a recurring theme of the rumor was that the shooting was being planned by members of a local gang that calls itself the Insane Clown Posse.

“That was as specific as the threat got, and although we take every threat seriously, we believe this particular threat is meritless,” Parce said. “Most of the concern is that it is happening at such an inopportune time. We take this very seriously, that’s our job, and we had uniformed patrols doing walk-throughs at both schools. We will maintain that visible presence through the week.”

Parce said students and parents are prone to interpret the threat with more gravity given last week’s school shootings in Newtown, Conn. He emphasized that school is still the safest place for students.

“If you are going to engage in this sort of conversation and dialogue on a social media site, you are going to be held accountable based on what kind of fear and disorder it causes,” Parce said, adding that school officials disciplined the students for violating school policy.

Nasset encouraged anyone who hears about or reads comments or threats about violence or crime to contact the police department at 758-7780.

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