UPDATE: Oakwood threat came from another country

UPDATE: Oakwood threat came from another country

OAKWOOD — Oakwood schools were back in session Wednesday, but some students were noticeably missing.

As a precaution, a number of parents said they kept their children out of school the day after officials canceled it due to what at the time was an unknown but seemingly credible threat.

Late Wednesday, amid pleas from parents to share more details, Superintendent Gary Lewis announced that the emailed threat referred to an Oakwood teacher by name but was sent by a person in another country.

“On Monday evening, school officials received an email in which a death threat was made naming an Oakwood teacher,” Lewis said in a letter to parents. “Threats were also made promising harm to the general school population.

“We have determined the threat was not made by anyone locally. Rather, information was obtained from a local source and the threat was made by a person in a foreign country.

“The person who made the threat has been identified. We have every reason to believe that person will be held accountable.”

Lewis went on to thank “parents, students, faculty and community members for their cooperation and patience over the last two days,” calling a week that started with the cancellation of classes due to icy roads “very disruptive to the school community.”

Kids ‘much safer’ at home

Earlier in the day, Lewis said that after consulting with law enforcement and “careful consideration of all the facts,” officials decided late Tuesday afternoon to resume school Wednesday.

“As a precaution, there will be a police presence at each building for the next few days,” he said, adding that one Oakwood officer is at each building.

Lewis did acknowledge that attendance throughout the district, which has an enrollment of a little more than 1,000, was “a little bit down today.” He didn’t have exact numbers of absences, although one parent reported nearly half of her son’s class of 27 was absent.

“Some of that I’ll attribute to the threat, but we also have the flu going around,” the superintendent said. “I was expecting some kids not to come to school today, and I completely understand that. ... But as a school, we wouldn’t send the kids back if we didn’t feel it was safe. The safety of our students and staff are our first priority.”

Given what little he knew about the threat at the time, J.D. Hibler was among the parents who decided missing one more day of school was worth it.

“As a parent, I feel much safer keeping my kids home another day. I’d rather them miss one more day of school than the rest of their lives,” said Hibler, whose daughter is a first-grader and niece is a sixth-grader at the grade school and whose nephew is a high school sophomore.

Hibler said the message he received about Tuesday’s cancellation of school didn’t give a reason.

“I thought it had to do with the weather again,” said Hibler, who only learned of the email threat around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.

“I really thought somebody was pulling a prank,” he said. “Then I got a (school) voicemail and got on the Oakwood Facebook page where it said it was a credible threat.”

Hibler said he was disappointed with the follow-up message from school officials.

“I understand it’s an ongoing investigation,” he said. “But they haven’t said if they have anybody they like for it or if they’ve apprehended anybody. I’m glad they are having police out front. But they didn’t say if they’re going to be searching anyone who’s walking through the doors.”

‘An interesting world’

Other parents agreed.

“The lack of information just makes you a little nervous,” said Will Gritten, who has kids in preschool, third grade and high school.

“I think we have a great community, and I can’t stress that enough,” he continued. “We’re living in an interesting world. And for something to come up like this, it’s a little shocking. They verified it as a deemable threat. ... All I really want is just a little more information.”

“This is a situation that we are not used to having to deal with, so naturally parents are concerned,” said Justin McDaniel, who has one child in the district.

McDaniel said he believes school officials “have our students’ and staff’s best interest in mind” and understood that details must be kept under wraps during the investigation.

“However, with the way things have been happening over the years in this country, with school shootings and things of that nature, it does make one put more thought into a situation such as this, when given no information. I pray it is resolved quickly. Oakwood is an amazing community.”

Sections (2):News, Local