CLINTON COUNTY — Around the time a second lockdown was taking place Wednesday afternoon to search students’ lockers and vehicles at Laurel Oaks Career Campus in Wilmington after a threatening note was found, a second threat — more specific than the earlier one — surfaced, officials said.
A female student was taken into custody for that threat and was to appear before a judge Wednesday afternoon, according to Great Oaks Career Campuses spokesman Jon Weidlich.
Laurel Oaks as well as East Clinton Middle School and High School were on lockdowns for separate incidents as a precaution Wednesday morning.
The student who wrote the threatening message at East Clinton has confessed, Clinton County Sheriff Ralph D. Fizer Jr. told the News Journal Wednesday. Fizer believes the student is in high school.
Both suspects are juveniles — that is, under 18, said Clinton County Chief Deputy Brian Prickett. They face charges that equate to “inducing panic,” he added.
Fizer said in both cases, Laurel Oaks and East Clinton, neither the sheriff’s office nor the school staff felt that students’ lives were in danger.
“If we had, we would have evacuated the schools [instead of having lockdowns],” the sheriff said.
Great Oaks Career Campuses spokesman Jon Weidlich told the News Journal that, in the case of the earlier threat, a “Laurel Oaks student found a note with a ‘vague, anonymous threat’ written on it and brought it to the attention of a teacher, who then contacted the school resource officer.”
Clinton County Sheriff’s deputies were called in to investigate and to review surveillance tapes as needed to identify the first perpetrator.
Once the school was placed on lockdown in the morning, Laurel Oaks Dean of Instruction Kevin Abt put out an all-call to parents which stated:
“As you probably know, anytime there’s a tragedy at a school, other school districts will see copycat messages and threats. That has happened across Ohio after last week’s tragedy in Florida, and today a staff member found an anonymous message at Laurel Oaks.
“We don’t believe that there is any cause for alarm for our students, but we take all such issues seriously. I’m calling you for several reasons. First, we always want parents to know what’s happening at Laurel Oaks. Second, we ask that you remind your sons and daughters that such a message is a criminal matter even if it’s a joke, and the Sheriff’s Department is currently investigating. There are severe consequences for the student who wrote it. Finally, if you or your child ever has any concerns, please encourage them to talk with one of us here at Laurel Oaks.
“The time immediately after a national tragedy is a difficult time for students, and the Laurel Oaks staff and I are paying particular attention for any student who is uncomfortable, unhappy, or worried. Please let us know if we can help your child in any way.”
Great Oaks posted on Facebook Wednesday morning after the earlier threat:
“Unfortunately, one common occurrence after a school tragedy like the one at Stoneman Douglas in Florida is the appearance of copycat notes — sometimes as a joke, sometimes to disrupt the school day. That happened this morning at our Laurel Oaks campus. Even though we don’t anticipate this to be an issue, we take such actions seriously and respond accordingly; we don’t want to make parents or students nervous but we want everyone to feel safe by being cautious. The Clinton County Sheriff’s Department is assisting, and we appreciate it!”
Fizer said Wednesday, “Unfortunately when these things happen throughout the United States, it seems like students get the idea to try to alarm everyone. What they don’t understand is they can be charged with some very serious charges.”
Students were very cooperative in assisting the sheriff’s office in its efforts to determine who wrote the East Clinton and earlier Laurel Oaks notes, the sheriff said. In both instances, the messages were written on desks, added Fizer.
No weapons were found, Fizer said.
By putting the school buildings on lockdown, it means that only law enforcement officers and school staff are moving around to talk to students, said Fizer.
The way the notes were written made it appear that students were not in danger, the sheriff said.