Threats, rumors prompt school closure, arrests, additional police presence

Published: Friday, Dec. 21 2012 11:25 a.m. MST

The closure, however, did prompt Swensen to take extra care for his young sister, a ninth-grader at nearby South Cache 8-9 Center. Although his sister usually rides the bus, Swensen decided to give her a ride to school.

“I decided I wanted to take her to school because Mountain Crest and South Cache are pretty closely related. Just in case, I just wanted that extra time with her. I could tell she was a little uneasy, and I wanted to help calm her down," he said. "While we were driving, I told her it would be alright. I told her the threat was just at Mountain Crest. I told her to be safe.”

Norton acknowledged that it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for students to make a hoax threat, believing it was a prank.

"That always is a concern. But with the actions and the events that have happened in our country recently, it's pretty difficult not to take it and run the worst-case scenario and say, 'We got to prepare for that,' and that's what we did here," he said. "We just believe this was the right thing to do."

Although Mountain Crest was the only school in the district that canceled classes Friday, the Cache County Sheriff's Office made an effort to be extra visible at the district's other schools.

"We told our patrol people to be in the area and drive through the parking lots and things like that," said Cache County Sheriff's Lt. Brian Locke. "We're trying to make our presence known in those schools."

But Locke also said the rumors that had been circulating among students and parents were just that, rumors.

"There is no threat to any of the schools or anything like that. We're just making our presence known," he said. "We haven't been able to substantiate (the reported threat) at all."

Mountain Crest was one of several schools throughout the state taking extra safety precautions Friday.

• Syracuse High School also had an extra police presence Friday, including bomb-sniffing dogs from Hill Air Force Base that were brought in early to do a sweep of the school. Students were not allowed to wear backpacks to class and only two entryways were open at the school on Friday, Williams said.

The action came a day after five students were referred to juvenile court for an alleged prank that involved a fake bomb.

"It was the wrong thing at the wrong time," Williams said. "You can't yell, 'Fire' in a crowded movie theater."

Syracuse High has been fielding hundreds of phone calls all week from concerned parents as the rumor of possible school violence spread, he said. The school also has conducted numerous interviews with students to determine if there was any substance to the threats. A letter was sent out by the school this week to parents informing them of what was happening.

"There's not been any substantiated threat at all. Syracuse, as well as schools across the nation, have been dealing with all sorts of rumors," Williams said. "We've had nothing credible. But my belief is they want to do everything they could so they feel comfortable, so parents feel comfortable, so students feel comfortable the school is safe."

Williams said the same rumors have been happening at other schools in the district as well as around the nation, most of them fueled by social media.

"I've gone on Facebook and Twitter for the past couple of days and rumors like this are not only in this county, but all over the country."

Parent Melanie Lewis, who has a child who attends Syracuse High, said Friday she was "relieved" to know the rumors and threats were being taken seriously and that the parents were being informed.

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