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Lincoln High School reopens after threat deemed not credible

By: Brian Louwers, Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published January 26, 2016


WARREN — Warren police and Van Dyke Public Schools officials started off the school week of Jan. 25 investigating a social media threat against Lincoln High School.

Because of the alleged threat, district Superintendent Joseph Pius canceled classes for students Jan. 25.

According to Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, the threat was posted on Instagram and through the Kik messenger app. The person responsible for the posts reportedly referenced a shooting to take place at the school at noon last Monday.

By mid-morning Jan. 25, sources close to the investigation determined that the threat was not credible at LHS. There was a threat, however, that had initiated at a Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Florida.

Once the investigation determined there was no threat in VDPS, the LHS students returned to school Jan. 26.

On the evening of Jan. 25, school officials posted an update on the Van Dyke Public Schools Facebook page that came from Pius. The post included the events of Jan. 24-25, in chronological order, of what led to closing LHS last Monday.

According to the post, Pius was notified during the late evening of Jan. 24 of an Instagram message warning LHS students that a shooter or shooters would be in school Jan. 25.

“This message had been received and circulated by Lincoln High School students only and had been forwarded to staff members of the high school,” Pius stated in the post. “The Warren police were notified and immediately began tracking the message trying to determine its origin.”

By midnight Jan. 24, Pius had not received any new details on the situation and decided to close the high school Jan. 25 since that was when the threat was directed. All of the other school buildings in the district would remain open.

By mid-morning Jan. 25, it was determined that the threat was not aimed at LHS in Warren. In the Facebook post, Pius said that Florida authorities and the FBI were tracking the source of the threat, which was a real threat, to Lincoln High School in Tallahassee.

“It was clear to us that our students had picked it up from social media and, not knowing if it was our school or not, notified us and began circulating the message,” Pius stated on the district’s Facebook page. “Through the efforts of the Warren Police Department, we were informed that Lincoln Public Schools in Ypsilanti, Michigan; Lincoln County Schools in Texas; and Lincoln Middle School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, were also affected by this social media Instagram threat.”

Pius also said “the safety of our students is our first priority.”

“We will continue to react in a proactive way should any other threats (social media or otherwise) be directed at our schools or students,” Pius stated. “I have asked our administrators to review with their staff the steps that we have outlined in our Safe Schools procedures and to implement these procedures as needed. Again, your students’ safety is our first priority.”

Similar threats were also allegedly made with respect to at least three schools outside of Warren: Detroit’s Cass Tech and Renaissance high schools, and Lake Orion High School.

A statement posted on the Lake Orion Community Schools website indicated that the threat was received late Sunday evening, and that “it appears this identical message has been posted toward other schools in Michigan and around the country.”

In addition to the ongoing Warren Police Department investigation, police in Detroit and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office were working to determine if the threats were credible and where they originated.

In a social media world filled with memes, emoticons and emojis, law enforcement officials said posting online threats is a serious crime.

Threatening to shoot up a school, for example, is considered a threat of terrorism, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Those charged in such cases could also be ordered to reimburse investigating agencies for their expended investigative resources, to the tune of up to $20,000.