An MTHS student was emergency expelled Jan. 4 after posting an image of a pile of bullets with the caption “be prepared” on Instagram. The expulsion was announced through emails and other district media following an eventful day that saw 28 percent of the students were absent, though many of those were likely due to people perceiving the photo as a threat.
Edmonds School District Community Relations Manager Debbie Joyce Jakala said, “The student was interviewed by police and never had any intent to make any kind of a threat, it was just a very irresponsible social media post. He saw a pile of bullets in his friend’s car, took a picture of it and said ‘be prepared,’ so it was implying if you have a lot of bullets on hand, be prepared. It [the post] never mentioned the school,” Jakala said.
Still, any students and family members contacted the school to report the photo and to make sure it was safe at school.
Principal Greg Schwab said that there were several hundred calls and emails to the school to notify the administration of the situation and that the calls helped to take the right steps to deal with it.
“The good news is [that] staff, students and parents started informing Principal Schwab and other administrators sometime before 6 a.m. this morning. That’s always [a] good thing,” Jakala said.
While Schwab said it was productive for people to be aware of the situation, spreading the photo without accurate information caused unnecessary fear for students and their families.
Schwab said he contacted contacted the police early Wednesday morning, who went to the school as well as the student’s house.
“[Schwab] took all the correct steps, an abundance of caution is the words he used, to notify the police and then we worked as quickly as we could to try to reassure parents that we’re investigating and that we felt everything was safe and it is,” Jakala said.
After addressing the perceived threat, Schwab took simple measures to keep the school day calm and normal.
“I just go out and visit classrooms… that’s what my day [was] today, just going out and visiting classrooms,” Schwab said. “If people have questions, I want to be there to answer questions. Again, I think it’s just being a visible presence and being there to reassure people that we’re okay.”
For students who didn’t attend school today, Schwab said that, just like a normal absence, parents will need to call the attendance office and excuse the absence.
While the post stirred fear through rumors early on in the day, the administration stressed the importance of stating facts.
Overall, Schwab said that the whole situation is an important learning experience.
“It’s a really great lesson in how you have to be really careful about what you post on social media because you don’t know how people are going to take it… I don’t know the reason why he posted it, I just know that from the police conversation with him, that it was not intended to be a threat,” Schwab said. “It’s a great education of why you just have to be careful about what you post on social media, because it has consequences.”
For more information, continue to follow the Hawkeye’s reporting and also go to the school’s website at: http://www.edmonds.wednet.edu/site/Default.aspx?PageID=5051
Updated on January 5, 2017.