FBI contacts Sam Barlow High School after learning of threat

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Additional police were at Sandy High School on Thursday, Dec. 20, after learning of a potential threat of violence.

The halls of Sandy High were unusually quiet Thursday, Dec. 20, as hundreds of students stayed home following rumors of possible violence that was supposed to take place at the school.

Sandy's police department, along with the school's administration, were conducting an investigation but as of Friday morning had not traced the source of the threat or confirmed rumors, Sandy High Principal Tim Werner said.

“There were a lot of rumors going around that could not be confirmed by school officials or law enforcement,” Werner said.

Rumors also spread to Estacada where schools in the district were on “semi-lockdown,” meaning the only ways to enter the buildings were to call or knock on the door, according to superintendent Howard Fetz.

In a letters sent to parents on Wednesday, Dec. 19, both school districts warned of the rumored threats, but offered assurances that precautions were being taken to keep students safe. Extra police patrolled Sandy High and security staff monitored all entrances.

There also was a police presence on the Estacada High School campus while additional staff watched the main entrance.

But those precautions didn't stop many worried parents from keeping their children at home.

Roughly 50 percent of students were absent from Sandy and Estacada high schools Thursday. However, spokespersons from both districts believed the drop in attendance could also be attributed to students leaving early for winter break, which began Friday for both districts.

“On the day before break, that percentage isn't totally out of the ballpark, but it's higher than usual,” said Monteith, adding that about 20 percent of students are usually absent the day before winter break at Sandy High.

In the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., last week, rumors and threats of violence at schools throughout Oregon and the country have spiked.

On Wednesday, Dec. 19, the FBI contacted the principal at Sam Barlow High School after learning of a threat made against the school on a gaming website.

Multiple rumored threats were brought to the attention of Gresham High School's administration by students and parents throughout last week.

In both cases, law enforcement, with help from the Gresham-Barlow district office, investigated all rumors and found none to be credible.

“With the tragic events of last week, people are understandably on edge,” Gresham High Principal John Koch wrote in a letter to parents last week.

And, like at Sandy High, many parents kept their children home from Reynolds High School on Monday, Dec. 17, when rumors of possible violence spread, primarily on Facebook.

Police and school officials opened an investigation after a student told the principal about a threat, but, again, it wasn't found to be credible.

In response to safety concerns from many parents and students, additional security officers were on campus on Friday, Dec. 21, the last day before the holiday break.

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