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After Parkland, Wisconsin schools experience increased threats of violence

Ximena Conde

Wisconsin Public Radio

Schools across Wisconsin have seen an increase in violent threats after a mass shooter attacked a Parkland, Florida high school, killing 17 people on Feb. 14.

While the threats have been disconcerting, most of them haven't led to disruptions in classes.

Still, school districts aren't taking the threats lightly.

Jefferson County’s Waterloo School District closed Wednesday after a threat of violence was made; social media threats prompted lockdowns in both Green Bay and Sevastopol schools; and police officers were called to Shorewood High School Thursday, after a Facebook threat was made to "SHS," a common acronym for the high school — the threat was actually to a school in Ohio, the poster of which is now in custody.

Barbara Dorff is an alderwoman in Green Bay who also teaches people how to survive active shooters with the ALICE Training Institute.

According to Dorff, the uptick is not uncommon. She said that highly publicized shootings can spur copycats and often make school administrators and law enforcement more alert.

"(People) are more concerned (after shootings) and therefore they’re more aware of what’s going on," Dorff said. "So if they see something on social media they’re more likely to say something and that may also count for the uptick."

Waterloo Police Chief Denis Sorenson said the fact that the threatening social media post happened so shortly after the shooting in Florida didn’t change how the department ran their investigation.

"Basically any type of threat that we’ve ever got, we’ve actively investigated it," Sorenson said. "So it doesn’t matter if it’s a school, it’s a private entity or a business, they get investigated."

Chief Peter Nimmer of the Shorewood Police Department said authorities are proud of the students who reported the threatening Facebook post.

In the City of Oak Creek, police investigated two incidents where students made statements about harming others. Oak Creek Police Captain Dave Stecker said charges that come out of these sort of threats are situation-specific but they will be investigated no differently than if a bomb threat were called in.

The threats to schools in Waterloo, Shorewood and Oak Creek led to arrests, but in other cases around the state only disciplinary action has been needed.

The Educator’s School Safety Network is a non-profit that provides safety training for schools and tracks these threats nationally. Officials there report an increase in school threats nationwide.

The organization reports 33 school-based violent incidents and threats in Wisconsin during the entire fall of 2017. In the five days after the Parkland shooting, they recorded nine threats.

Amanda Klinger is one of the authors of the report. She says that the number of threats they have recorded is likely an under-reporting of what is known to exist.

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