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School threats cause disruptions, anxiety

JeffCo Schools says several threats in recent weeks were determined to be unfounded, but each takes a toll on resources and the mental health of students and staff.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — An online school threat this week led to a 12-year-old's arrest, and yet another round of school disruptions and anxiety.

The student didn’t attend the Jefferson County school police say he threatened. And the firearm pictured in those threats turned out to be fake, Lakewood police said.

But once again, a school community is dealing with the fallout and fear of potential violence.

This threat was made to Creighton Middle School, and ultimately ended with an arrest. But it’s just one example of a larger problem felt locally and nationally.

A spokesperson for JeffCo Schools said the school district and local law enforcement have responded to about 20 school threat tips within the past three weeks. All of them require a serious response, and all of them were unfounded.

“We are all heightened and aware of violence that’s occurring nationwide,” said Lakewood Police Agent Paul Osckel.

“I don’t think the kids realize the trauma and anxiety [these threats] cause because of how we are aware of what’s going on. I don’t think they’re aware of the resources that it does take and how seriously we take that and how many people we have working to solve those.”

“It can derail an entire day very quickly, these things pick up so much steam,” said John Thanos, principal at Chatfield Senior High School. His school was not part of any threats made this week, but like any school leader today, he is witness to – and frustrated by – the disruption and anxiety that always follows these situations.

“You’ll have so many parents coming to pick up their kids, the call lines will be flooded in terms of 'hey, I’m trying to call my kid out and get them.’ Once that starts to unravel in that way – its hard to bring it back in and have a normal school day.”

Schools and investigators take threats of violence very seriously, which means all resources are directed toward responding. Young people of school age have grown up learning lockdown drills and watching threats spread on social media, which means – even with threats deemed fake – the anxiety is very real.

“Most of what they’re re-sharing [on social media] isn’t the original [threat] post, but their own anxiety,” Thanos said. “And it builds this shared anxiety that is almost palpable in a school, and it becomes like a boiling point.”

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