Man arrested after threats made at Westdale Secondary School, police say

A 19-year-old man has been arrested after threats made at Westdale Secondary School forced the school to close on Friday as a precaution.

As a precaution Westdale Secondary School closed Friday

A 19-year-old man has been arrested after threats were made at Westdale Secondary School in Hamilton. (Google)

A 19-year-old man has been arrested after threats made at Westdale Secondary School forced the school to close on Friday as a precaution.

The arrests follow a series of threats made at nine schools this week. Police say many of the messages threatened a shooting on Friday. At Westdale, interim Director of Education Sue Dunlop said a message threatening a shooting was found written on a bathroom wall and police are investigating.

"The decision to close was made by Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) as a result of new information about a potential threat to school safety," a notice released Thursday evening reads. "We want you to know that student safety is of the utmost importance."

An evening performance at the school would also be postponed, it said.

The 19-year-old, police say, has been charged with two counts of uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm. Police say there are more arrests to come. They have not yet named the 19-year-old.

On Thursday, Hamilton police arrested a 14-year-old girl after a shooting threat was spotted at St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic Secondary School.

Const. Indy Bharaj told CBC Hamilton the teenager was charged with mischief under $5,000 and released with some conditions.

The nature of the conditions isn't clear. The 14-year-old can't be named under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

As of Wednesday, four schools had received five shooting threats over the past few days. Bharaj said that as of Thursday, at least nine schools from across the city had received threats.

The schools are:

  • Hillcrest Elementary School.
  • St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School.
  • Westdale Secondary School.
  • Bishop Tonnos Catholic Secondary School.
  • Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School.
  • St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School.
  • St. John Henry Newman Catholic Secondary School.
  • Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School.
  • Cootes Paradise Elementary School.
  • Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School

The threats in Hamilton come just days after an 18-year-old opened fire inside Robb Elementary School in the Texas town of Uvalde, killing 19 Grade 4 students and two teachers. The mass shooting has renewed discussions around school safety and gun control in both the U.S. and Canada.

Parent: 'My immediate thought was the shooting in Texas'

Two of Courtney Levesque's three children attend one of the schools that received a threat.

Levesque told CBC Hamilton that the school's principal notified parents and guardians via email on Wednesday.

"My immediate thought was the shooting in Texas … like just [your] stomach dropped, kind of tears in your eyes kind of thing," she said.

Levesque described the entire situation as "disgusting." 

"It wasn't like, 'Oh, it's just one kid being an idiot.' It was pretty much the same thing was being written at like five different schools," she said.

Levesque says she and her partner decided not to send the children to school on Thursday.

The Hamilton incidents also come after a student was seen with a pellet gun at Bennetto Elementary School on Wednesday.

Bharaj said police are investigating each threat separately and taking them "extremely seriously."

He said all investigations are still active and there's no indication it's a social media challenge.

He said police will be looking at video surveillance, talking to any witnesses, trying to narrow down time frames to determine who may have written the threats, and looking at the writing itself. There will also be officers present at some schools on Friday.

"We as a community have to work together to figure this out. Somebody knows something and we just want them to speak up ... we got to put an end to this."



With files from Bobby Hristova