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Michigan school shooting, more threats prompt multiple districts to cancel classes

Social media posts threatening more violence after the deadly Oxford High School shooting led to the wave of closures Wednesday night.
Image: People pay their respects at a memorial at Oxford High School, a day after a shooting that left four dead and eight injured, in Oxford
People embrace as they pay their respects at a memorial at Oxford High School, a day after a shooting that left four dead and eight injured, in Oxford, Mich., on Dec. 1, 2021.SETH HERALD / Reuters

Multiple school districts in suburban Detroit kept students at home Thursday due to threats of more violence in the wake of the tragic Oxford High School shooting that left four dead. 

More than 60 local campuses canceled class due to false threats made by people who thought it'd be "funny" or wanted a day off from school, said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

The sheriff said each threat needs to be investigated, costing law enforcement and educational resources.

"I don't know what is in people's minds to think that after a real tragedy it makes sense to make threats," Bouchard told reporters. "They fall into two buckets. One is, they think it's funny. It is not. Two, they thinks it's a way to get out of school. It is not. It's a crime."

Bloomfield Hills School District Superintendent Pat Watson wrote in a notice published at 11 p.m. Wednesday that its schools would be closed after “BHS and other communities across the region have received numerous reports of threats of violence circulating on social media.”

“Out of an abundance of caution, all BHS schools will be closed on Thursday,” he said, noting that the district is in contact with Bloomfield Township Police over the rumors. 

Holly Area Schools also announced their schools will be closed Thursday and Friday “out of an abundance of caution” following “multiple reports of a potential shooting threat against Holly Area Schools that have been posted on social media," District Superintendent Scott Roper and Holly Police Chief Jerry Narsh said in a joint statement.

A joint investigation was launched with the district and the Holly Police Department, which produced “no source for the original threat" and deemed the threat as “not credible due to a lack of evidence.” 

Other systems that will be closed Thursday include Troy Schools, Rochester Community Schools, Brandon School District, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools, Lake Orion Community Schools, Clawson Public Schools, Warren Consolidated Schools, Hazel Park Schools, Avondale School District, West Bloomfield School District and Lamphere Schools.

The Oxford Community Schools, the Oakland County district where the shooting took place, will be closed through the rest of the week, officials said in a post on the system's website.

"As we grapple with the horrific tragedy in our school community, we grieve the students who lost their lives and we ache for all those who have been injured and impacted. We appreciate the heartfelt outpouring of support we have received from across our community, our state, and our nation," the district said in a statement.

Sheriff Bouchard said federal authorities are assisting local law enforcement to run down false threats.

"It's scary and it's wrong," Bouchard said of this proliferation of phony threats.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald reminded her constituents that making a false threat could be a felony punishable by 20 years behind bars.

And Oakland County Executive David Coulter recalled all the lost days of school in 2020 and this year due to Covid-19 and said students can't afford to keep losing in-person class days.

"What we learned from that is there is a learning loss," Coulter said. "Kids need to be in school  when they can and when we can keep them safe."

In addition to the four fatalities, the Tuesday shooting at Oxford High School left seven other people, including a teacher, seriously wounded.

The suspect was identified as Ethan Crumbley, 15, on Wednesday. He was charged as an adult with four counts of first-degree murder, one count of terrorism causing death, seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The shooting was planned and was “not just an impulsive act,” McDonald said Wednesday.