PIQUA —Two female juveniles have been charged in connection with the threats that disrupted classes at Piqua High School this week, leading to an early dismissal on Thursday and no classes being held Friday.
The Piqua Police Department released the following extensive press release on the incident regarding threats made at the Piqua High School this week:
Piqua City Schools and the Piqua Police Department take the safety of school students and staff very seriously and value a cooperative approach to assessing threats, prioritizing investigations, and making decisions regarding safe city and school events.
We appreciate the patience of the public as we worked through several threats and rumors of threats over these two days. We have now concluded most of the related investigations and offer the following information. This information is not presented sequentially.
Much in the style of the TV show “Pretty Little Liars,” a 15-year-old Piqua High School female student created a Snapchat username that included the letter “A” like the character in the TV show. This user was threatening to expose secrets of fellow students, and the alter-ego became widely known throughout the school.
At some point, the false rumors about the snaps by “A” indicated there was a threat to shoot up the school.
We conducted an exhaustive investigation on Wednesday into those who had actually seen the snaps, and nobody saw any such threats. Our joint threat assessment with the school personnel placed the schools at “Low Risk” at this time.
Parents were notified and there was no disruption to the school schedule. We assigned officers specifically to Piqua High School in anticipation of increased anxiety. The superintendent and additional administrators maintained a presence at PHS on this day as well.
Message on restroom mirror
Thursday morning, a non-threatening message was found on a mirror in a girls’ restroom. It had no apparent ties to Snapchat messages and may be nothing more than criminal mischief, but this is still under investigation.
This is not the type of damage we would normally place intense investigative resources into, but due to the other circumstances of the week, we are proceeding aggressively to try to identify the source and the intent of this message. Because of this ongoing investigation, we are not releasing the exact content at this time.
Message on restroom wall
Later on Thursday morning, a message was discovered on the wall inside a girls’ restroom stall. It read, “I’m still gonna shoot the school – A”, which we now known to be written by a 14-year old female student.
This was the first direct threat of violence to the school. At about the same time, two students came forward with a rumor of unknown origin that “the shooting” was going to occur around noon.
At this time, we determined that we lacked adequate time to complete a thorough threat assessment of these two new pieces of information. We also suspected that keeping the students together in this environment would lead to further embellishments based on the original false rumor that “A” had threatened to shoot. In retrospect, the school was still at “Low Risk,” but we did not have enough information to determine that at the time.
At this time, arrangements were made for an early dismissal of students. The school was placed into lockdown status pending the dismissal, transportation was mobilized, and parents were notified through Instant Connect.
Police personnel assisted the school administration and staff, who did a remarkable job of controlling the school and its occupants. They are to be commended for their handling of these decisions, and especially in how they dismissed the students safely.
Continuous investigation and assessment
In situations such as this, false leads are expected to surface, and they did. Before we assure the community that everything is OK, we need to pin down every tip and every rumor. Publicizing these details while also investigating them and assessing their credibility is counterproductive to reaching sound decisions.
School administrators and the Piqua Police understand the frustration this causes the community, but appreciate your patience and understanding. A hunch that everything is OK is not enough when parents are basing decisions about their child’s safety into our hands.
Late on Thursday afternoon, it was determined that holding school on Friday, without any assurances that everything was OK, would only lead to more false rumors and anxiety in the school environment, so classes at Piqua High School were cancelled.
One suspect was being called out extensively on social media, which then resulted in multiple sources reporting to us that they suspected this person, too. This person was not a PHS student, and had reportedly told people he had “a list.”
We investigated this list and discovered it emanated from a Facebook post a couple weeks ago regarding people this suspect felt were talking behind his back. He eventually listed these “fake friends” on Facebook, and this was extensively reported as somehow connected to threats against the school. After our investigation, we are confident it was not.
A 15-year-old female student responsible for creating the “A” Snapchat account will be charged with disorderly conduct as a misdemeanor.
A 14-year-old female student responsible for writing the threat from “A” to shoot the school is being charged with inducing panic as a felony.
There is no collaboration between the two suspects being charged in Miami County Juvenile Court. The younger student had seen the chats by the older student.
Piqua City Schools will continue to work closely with the Piqua Police Department to ensure proper charges are filed against these individuals. Additionally, each student will go through due process with the high school administration in order to make a determination regarding disciplinary decisions.
Chief of Police Bruce Jamison said, “Parents of students in Piqua City Schools should be very proud of how faculty and staff handled the dismissal and the decisions about student safety. These educators didn’t get into this field to handle situations like this, and yet they stepped up and did everything they needed to keep the kids safe.”
Superintendent of Piqua City Schools Dwayne Thompson commented, “I was really proud of the Piqua High School staff. They remained calm and worked in tangent with the Piqua Police to keep students safe and orderly through this whole situation. I appreciate their professionalism and ‘students first’ mentality.”