Manitoba

'This isn't a joke': RCMP respond to 4 threats against Manitoba schools in 2 days

A middle school student is in custody after a threat was made against a Russell, Man., school in a social media post earlier this week — the fourth incident in the last two days in which a threat was made against a Manitoba school.

Student arrested in Russell, Man., after 'generalized' threat surfaces on social media

School administrators at Major Pratt School in Russell, Man., say a student was arrested this week after a threat against the school emerged on social media. (Google Maps )

A middle school student is in custody after a threat was made against a Russell, Man., school in a social media post earlier this week — the fourth incident in the last two days in which a threat was made against a Manitoba school. 

The threat came to light Thursday and was reported to RCMP, who arrested a student the same day, says a letter to parents of students at Major Pratt School in Russell.

The letter, signed by school principal Tammy McCulloch and vice-principal Will Moncrief, says the threat was "generalized and vague," and not directed at any individual.

It does not say whether the school was put into lockdown. 

The school and Park West School Division plan to further investigate the incident. 

A 13-year-old female student faces a charge of uttering threats, RCMP said. 

CBC has reached out to Park West School Division for comment. 

The same day as the Russell incident, Portage la Prairie RCMP responded to a report saying a student had brought a gun to a Portage Collegiate Institute.

A 16-year-old female turned herself in later that day, along with a pellet gun, and is now facing weapons charges, RCMP said.

The superintendent of the school division later told CBC in an email that the student was not at the school when police arrived, and said no gun was actually brought to the school.

And on Wednesday, a teenager was arrested and faces numerous charges after a violent altercation prompted authorities to put the Steinbach Regional Secondary School in lockdown.

An elementary school in Opaskwayak Cree Nation was also evacuated Wednesday after threatening remarks were found scrawled in one of the washrooms.

'This isn't a joke' 

RCMP spokesperson Julie Courchaine said young people need to realize that such threats are taken very seriously by police, and could have life-altering consequences, such as a criminal charge. 

"Sometimes … these students do it as a joke, or they're, you know, fooling around with friends — and they have to realize that this isn't a joke," she said. 

"It's taken very seriously. There's a lot of resources [involved] when we are called out to to attend these." 

Aimee Morrison, an associate professor from the University of Waterloo who studies how people use social media, said  that because it's so easy, and common, to act on a quick impulse or vent frustrations online, teenagers might not quite understand the impact that their speech online will have on the community around them.

"With these social media threats now, both because those threats can spread so widely, so quickly, and also because some of these threats have turned out, particularly in the U.S., to not be idle threats, they become much more serious and fast acting in their consequences," she said. 

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story said that Portage la Prairie RCMP received a call about a student who brought a gun to a Portage Collegiate Institute. In fact, RCMP received a report alleging a gun had been brought to Prairie Collegiate Institute, but the division's superintendent later said that no gun had actually been brought into the school.
    Sep 21, 2019 9:10 AM CT