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TrekNorth goes into 'soft' lockdown: School threat deemed not credible, officials say

BEMIDJI -- TrekNorth Junior and Senior High School went into a “soft” lockdown Wednesday morning after leaders learned of a potential threat there that has since been determined to be not credible.

A student there was suspended in early February after telling a friend he was going to shoot up the school, TrekNorth Executive Director Kristin Gustafson told the Pioneer. The student returned to class Tuesday and several concerned parents contacted the district Tuesday night as rumors on social media swirled, she said.

“This morning, there were lots of rumors flying around on Facebook about (the student) being here,” Gustafson said Wednesday. Erring on the side of caution, school staff contacted police and decided to go into a soft lockdown, which meant staff were posted at each door, students’ hallway use was limited and a police officer was on scene.

Administrators believe Wednesday’s concerns stem from the early February incident, Gustafson told parents in a mass email. And police and district investigators concluded the potential threat Wednesday was not credible, she said.

Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin told the Pioneer via email that the department investigated the reports Feb. 5, and received more information from parents on Tuesday night that appeared to be related to the incident.

“At this point the comments did not appear to be Criminal (and) the school is handling the situation,” Mastin’s wrote in the email.

Gustafson invited parents to a School Safety Parent Meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the school.

“In light of what has happened in Florida and Ohio recently we want you to know that the safety of our students and our staff is our top priority,” Gustafson told parents in an email. A gunman killed 17 people last week in Parkland, Fla., which triggered a fresh round of nationwide debate over gun violence. And a middle schooler in Massillon, Ohio, was hospitalized Tuesday after reportedly shooting himself himself in a school bathroom.

A walkout to protest mass shootings was planned, briefly, at Bemidji High School before being canceled amid concerns of a “disruption” to students’ education.

TrekNorth isn’t the only area school to respond this week to a threat. The Bemidji Police Department’s daily blotter said Wednesday that a student at 1900 block of Middle School Drive Northwest -- where Bemidji Middle School is located -- had threatened via writing to kill a staff member there and had a knife.

Mastin said in his email that the case had been sent to the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office for review, and that he could not comment further because the suspect is underage.

Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess said that the blotter entry likely referred to an incident at the Middle School that occurred last week, when a special education student made threats after being disciplined.

“It was reviewed, it was acted on last week,” Hess said. “I don’t have any reason to believe that it is anything different, and I haven’t had any contact with anyone from the middle school about anything other than this one issue that occurred last week.”

Hess also said that a popular post on a Facebook page called Bemidji Chit Chat describing a threat at the high school was inaccurate.

“You have to put some filters on what you’re reading on social media. That is not gospel,” Hess said. “I’m not aware of any kind of threat that was issued at the high school.”

According to media reports, Orono (Minn.) Public Schools were placed on lockdown Wednesday morning after threats were made on social media; after investigation, the Orono Police said the threats were not credible.

Pioneer staff writer Grace Pastoor contributed to this report.

Joe Bowen

Joe Bowen covers education (mostly K-12) and American Indian affairs for the Bemidji Pioneer.

He's from Minneapolis, earned a degree from the College of St. Benedict - St. John's University in 2009, and worked at the Perham Focus near Detroit Lakes and Sun Newspapers in suburban Minneapolis before heading to the Pioneer.

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