Law enforcement officers will have a stepped-up presence Friday on the campuses of Peninsula High School and Harbor Ridge Middle School in the Gig Harbor area, following reports of a threat involving both schools on the last day of class before Christmas break.
The reports joined a slew of similar incidents across the country, which were tied to Friday’s date and its rumored association with a Mayan calendar doomsday. Dozens of schools canceled class days in Michigan.
Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Thursday that officers investigated, spoke with several Peninsula district students and determined the threat appeared unfounded. No one was arrested, he said.
Emails about the threat reports were sent to parents at both schools Wednesday night.
The message to parents from Peninsula High School Principal Tim Winter said the district took the threat report seriously and was working to investigate and defuse the situation.
He also told parents that the district had dealt with the student and was confident the situation was under control.
District Academic Officer Dan Gregory said Thursday that administrators at Harbor Ridge received the first report of a potential threat to school safety Monday. The report came from a student.
School officials determined that the alleged threat had come from a Peninsula High student, who had made a statement to a younger sibling.
As the message was passed among students, Gregory said, it “morphed into different things.”
School officials consulted with the district’s school resource officer, who is a member of the Sheriff’s Department. They also contacted the Peninsula student and the student’s parents.
“We wanted to communicate to parents that there was a thorough investigation and that we were confident school would be a safe place on Friday,” Gregory said.
School officials did not give specific details about the nature of the reported threat, either to parents or to The News Tribune.
“All schools and law enforcement are on heightened awareness,” Gregory said. “We understand parents are concerned.”
He said the student accused of making the threat was not in school Thursday and will not be Friday.
Friday marks the one-week mark following the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 students and six educators. It has prompted extra vigilance at schools around the country.
Earlier this week, Tacoma Police investigated a report of a threat at Meeker Middle School. They determined it had come from out of state and did not represent a danger to students here. Still, a police officer was on the Meeker campus Monday.
On Wednesday, Stadium High School was evacuated after a student showed off a homemade firework to others on campus. Tacoma police arrested the student.
It is against the law in Washington to make threats to schools, and claiming it was a hoax is not a defense. Even making a phony threat is a misdemeanor.
Apocalpyse-related threats have popped up in schools around the country this week, from Virginia to Texas. Public schools in two counties north of Detroit started the Christmas break Wednesday night rather than hold classes the rest of the week.
Last week’s shooting in Connecticut “changed all of us. … Canceling school is the right thing to do,” Genesee County schools in Michigan said in a statement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635