School district says they are ‘100% in support’ of charges filed against student for shooting threat

St. George Police Department patrol vehicles parked outside of Snow Canyon Middle School, St. George, Utah, Sept. 11, 2019 | Photo by Tyler Maffitt, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — St. George Police Department has arrested and charged a Snow Canyon Middle School student after officials say he made threats of school violence over text.

Snow Canyon Middle School, St. George, Utah, Sept. 11, 2019 | Photo by Tyler Maffitt, St. George News

Officials released a statement Tuesday evening alerting parents to a text thread sent to multiple people about a possible school shooting at Snow Canyon Middle School.

After learning the identity of the sender, the officer interviewed the student and his parents before arresting the student and taking him to a juvenile detention center. He is currently facing a third-degree felony.

“Whether it was a joke or not, we’re going to take everything as serious as we should,” St. George Police Officer Tiffany Atkin said. “Anytime we get a report, whether people say it was a joke or not, it’s going to be fully investigated. Follow-through will always be done if necessary.”

According to Washington County School District Communications Director Steven Dunham, schools will see an increased police presence Wednesday.

Snow Canyon Middle School, St. George, Utah, Sept. 11, 2019 | Photo by Tyler Maffitt, St. George News

Tuesday’s announcement comes on the tail of a similar incident at the school last week when a shooting threat written in pencil was found on the cover of a calculator. In an email to parents at that point, principal Brad Bench said the school resource officer had investigated the incident and didn’t find any validity to the threat.

However, Dunham said Wednesday that the district is asking parents to sit down with their children to discuss the severity of situations like these. Having a personal conversation with students can help them to understand that school shooting jokes or hoaxes, even among friends, are not funny and can have serious consequences.

“We want to be very clear that there is nothing funny about a joke to friends about a shooting in one of our schools,” Dunham said. “We are 100% in support of our police departments charging, arresting and dealing with student who have made threats of any nature about any of our students or any of our schools.”

The Washington County School District has already started making changes to school facilities to better ensure student safety. Last year, voters passed a $125 million school bond initiative to allow the district to add new amenities to schools in the area.

Washington County is using $1.34 million specifically for updating security measures, including the installation of security doors with sturdier frames, thicker glass and a magnetic lock. The district already added the doors to most elementary schools over the summer.

“The security upgrades haven’t started in any of our secondary schools,” Dunham said. “I don’t know when those are slated to start.”

He said despite a number of additional security measures that are being put into place, authorities have advised the district not to disclose details about those measures.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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