SANDY — A threat of violence at Jordan High School prompted many parents to keep their students home on Friday.
But Sandy police and the Canyons School District officials say they do not believe any of the threats are credible. In fact, Sandy Police Capt. Justin Chapman said the biggest issue appeared to be parents and students spreading unsubstantiated rumors on social media, which created a lot of fear and hype.
"We do not believe that there is a credible threat at all to the school. The information that came through in (social media posts) is all thirdhand information," he said. "It is not a threat from a person, but people saying, 'I heard there was threat,'" Chapman said.
"We knew that there was chatter out there about a potential threat. But it was always, 'I heard it from somebody who heard it from somebody,'" added Canyons School District spokesman Jeff Haney.
"Being irresponsible with social media will cause these issues. I think that's exactly what's happening today," Chapman said.
Nevertheless, Sandy police had extra officers visible at the school on Friday, both for protection and to reassure students, and planned to have officers at the school again on Monday.
A similar situation unfolded at West Jordan High School Friday due to the fact it was initially unclear which school was being threatened, according to police.
The Canyons School District first learned of the threats about 8 p.m. Thursday and called Sandy police, said Haney. The threat was of a possible bombing or mass shooting, according to police.
Officers went through Jordan High School overnight and found nothing. They also tried to track down the source of the social media hype. Chapman said one possibility being investigated was that an unfounded threat made against the school several months ago was being passed around again for an unknown reason.
One reason police believe the threats weren't credible was because many of them were inconsistent. As students and parents spread rumors on various social media platforms, the type of violent episode that was to happen at the school kept changing.
"So they're not even consistent or credible," Chapman said.
But Haney said the district takes all threats seriously, which is why the district didn't immediately notify the community that administrators did not believe it was credible.
"When we received the tips, we immediately investigate. But we're not going to tell you they're unfounded until we thoroughly investigate it and come to the conclusion with certainty that they are unfounded," he said.
Still, the threats were enough for some parents to keep their students home from school. Haney said at the start of the day, Jordan High School was at 50 percent attendance, "and chances are it will continue to go down during the day.
"While we do consider this to be unfounded, parents will do what's best for their families," he said.
The school was even forced to cancel its assembly scheduled for Friday.
"Everything was supposed to go on as planned today. But because so few kids came to school today, they postponed the talent show until all the kids could participate and other kids could see the assembly," Haney said.1 comment on this story
Schools across the state have been encouraging students for years to report threats with a "see something, say something" message. Haney said the challenge is balancing the need for students to report threatening messages or suspicious incidents, versus spreading false rumors and overhyping a situation.
"As soon as we know anything, we'll let people know. We don't want to cause panic, but we also want to follow up on the tips. In this day and age, we have to err on the side of caution," he said.