December 9, 2018

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Perceived online threat puts Selkirk-area schools put in lockdown

The Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School opened again Tuesday morning before the lockdown. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)</p>

The Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School opened again Tuesday morning before the lockdown. (Mikaela MacKenzie / Winnipeg Free Press)

The entirety of the Lord Selkirk School Division -- 15 schools and more than 4,000 students -- went into a “hold and secure” lockdown Tuesday, one day after it had shut down completely due to multiple online threats.

The schools were secured shortly before noon, after an online threat surfaced that morning suggesting at least one person with a gun was coming to the Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School at lunchtime.

It was later determined by the RCMP the messages were not a new threat, and were instead reshared versions of those sent Sunday, in which two people have been charged and remanded into custody.

The division announced the lockdown -- during which no one was allowed to enter or exit the schools -- had been lifted before 2 p.m., with no incidents.

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The entirety of the Lord Selkirk School Division — 15 schools and more than 4,000 students — went into a "hold and secure" lockdown Tuesday, one day after it had shut down completely due to multiple online threats.

The schools were secured shortly before noon, after an online threat surfaced that morning suggesting at least one person with a gun was coming to the Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive Secondary School at lunchtime.

It was later determined by the RCMP the messages were not a new threat, and were instead reshared versions of those sent Sunday, in which two people have been charged and remanded into custody.

The division announced the lockdown — during which no one was allowed to enter or exit the schools — had been lifted before 2 p.m., with no incidents.

"You feel sick. It makes you feel sick inside, especially for the kids at the (high school)," said Sandra Epp, the mother of two daughters who are students in the division.

"I do think this is something that is bad for the mental health of the kids who are at school. I think it’s damaging because, for many, it’s going to undermine their sense of safety at the place where they should be learning," she said. "If you don’t feel safe, then how are you open to learn?"

RCMP spokesman Sgt. Paul Manaigre confirmed the Mounties were notified of a threat circulating at about 11 a.m. Tuesday. In response, officers were immediately dispatched to division schools. It was later determined to be the recent messages being reshared.

The investigation is continuing.

"The RCMP reminds everyone that these types of online threats are taken very seriously and charges will be pursued against anyone participating in this type of online activity," Manaigre said. "We ask that students and residents in Selkirk only share facts from trusted sources, such as the school district, police or city officials.

"Many people are experiencing fear and uncertainty over these incidents and the spreading of false information and rumours is not helpful."

Shortly after violent threats against the Lord Selkirk School Division were posted Sunday to social media, two adults and a youth were arrested.

Kingsley Brett Williams, 18, of Selkirk, has been charged with two counts of uttering threats.

At the time of his arrest, Williams already had two separate assault charges on the books, stemming from incidents on Aug. 24 and Oct. 30. On both occasions, he'd been released on a promise to appear Dec. 14 in court.

A 16-year-old male from Selkirk has been charged with one count of uttering threats.

An 18-year-old woman was arrested, but released without charges.

As a precaution, the school division kept all of its schools closed Monday.

The school division also announced new safety measures that will be implemented in the wake of the incidents. At all division schools, the exterior doors will be locked from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. until further notice.

A statement posted to the division website Wednesday also said officials will look for potential long-term solutions to the recent troubles, as well as review the existing emergency preparedness strategy.

In October, a 17-year-old student was arrested after arriving at Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive with a sawed-off shotgun and ammunition in a backpack.

Division superintendent Michele Polinuk said there was also a threat made against the high school via social media about a year ago.

When the school reopened for classes Tuesday morning, the Selkirk Bear Clan Patrol performed a healing drum and singing ceremony for students. There were also counsellors available for students.

Epp said she thinks the school division and RCMP have handled the recent incidents well, adding the division has run "code red drills" in the past to prepare students, teachers and other staff for possible active-shooter situations.

"It’s hard, as a parent," she said. "With the code red drills, they’re talking about if they get an active shooter in the building, how do they keep safe? To imagine my little kids hiding under their desks preparing for someone coming to the school with a gun makes me sick inside.

"I guess it’s a good thing they have these drills, but it’s disgusting that they have to have them."

ryan.thorpe@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @rk_thorpe

Ryan Thorpe

Ryan Thorpe
Reporter

Ryan Thorpe likes the pace of daily news, the feeling of a broadsheet in his hands and the stress of never-ending deadlines hanging over his head.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 at 2:47 PM CST: Updates

6:29 PM: Updates story

December 5, 2018 at 7:20 AM: Added exterior doors will be locked during the day.

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