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Woodland Park schools closed again Thursday, as school threats a growing concern

February 28, 2018 Updated: March 1, 2018 at 6:06 am
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Woodland Park High School - Via Google Maps

Schools, all athletic fields and other property again will be closed Thursday in Woodland Park School District RE-2, spokeswoman Stacy Schubloom said Wednesday.

Activities also are canceled Thursday, she said.

The latest school threat in the Pikes Peak region was deemed credible by Woodland Park police, leaving three elementary schools, a middle school and a high school standing empty Wednesday and now again on Thursday.

"The investigation is advancing, because it is continuing we decided to close the district again tomorrow," Schubloom said. "As always, student and staff safety remains a top priority for our district."

Lost educational time will be made up through extending the school day or adding days to the school year, Schubloom said.

District officials closed all five RE-2 schools after graffiti written last Friday on a girl's bathroom wall at the high school referenced Wednesday as the day of action.

Cmdr. Jim Halloran, spokesman for the Woodland Park Police Department, said the investigation continues, so he could not provide details.

Police were regularly patrolling around school property Wednesday, he said.

The Woodland Park Police Department is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the identification of the person responsible. Tipsters can call the police department at 687-9262 or the anonymous Safe-2-Tell hotline at (877) 542-7233.

Numerous threats have been made against schools in the area, from Air Academy High to Widefield High to Peyton Junior/Senior High and even an elementary school since the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

What's up with the escalation of threats in potential copycat behavior is the million dollar question for law enforcement, parents, students and the community.

"Does it keep happening because students want attention and feel they're getting their 15 minutes of fame? Is it because it's funny and they think it's a joke? Is it because they really want to harm someone in the school?" said Jacqueline Kirby, spokeswoman for the El Paso County Sheriff's office. "There are myriad reasons, and we're trying to get a handle on it."

There have been so many threats, that Kirby said law enforcement agencies throughout the region are working together to present a community forum with a panel of experts to discuss the topic.

"Because this is such a huge problem and seems to keep growing, we're working on getting a venue large enough so schools in the area and the community can attend," Kirby said.

The details have not been finalized, she said.

This is the only credible threat the Woodland Park School District RE-2 has received since the Florida incident, Halloran said. Others have been investigated but didn't rise to the level of credibility, he said.

"Sometimes somebody says I'm scared about such and such, and people think it's going to happen," he said. "Or people overhear parts of conversations and don't really know the truth. We investigate anything that somebody says, and a lot of times we're able to clear up any questions immediately."

When a mass shooting at a school occurs anywhere in the nation, people start paying more attention to what's going on around them, said Lt. Howard Black, spokesman for the Colorado Springs Police Department.

"And they should pay attention," he said. "If you're hearing something or seeing something we want that reported, we want to get in front of it. We appreciate the information."

This week, three schools in Widefield School District 3 received threats, two unsubstantiated but one resulting in the arrest of a high school student for allegedly threatening the school and three staff members, according to Kirby.

He was arrested on suspicion of inciting destruction of life or property, a felony, and interference with staff, faculty or students of an educational institution, a misdemeanor she said.

Last week, two high school students from Peyton School District 23-JT were arrested on suspicion of verbally threatening another student and are facing the same charges as the Widefield suspect.

Unsubstantiated threats also were made in recent weeks at Air Academy High in Academy D-20, Harrison High School and Sierra High School in Harrison D-2, Pueblo County District 70 and others.

"We're not seeing any one theme," Kirby said. "The threats are different, some are credible, some are not, but we are charging (suspects) when appropriate."

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