Two students were arrested for uttering threats after all three high schools in the Comox Valley School District (SD71) were shut down for the day, Thursday, Jan. 25.
Early Thursday morning, parents and students received the news that Mark R. Isfeld, G.P. Vanier and Highland Secondary were closed on the advice of the RCMP, due to an indication that the secondary schools were not safe – a notification which was posted SD71’s website and social media.
“(Police) shared the information with our district staff, and we made the decision for the safety of our students and our staff and parents and family that we would close all three high schools,” explained Mary Lee, communications advisor for SD71.
“Any time the safety of the staff, students and family are in jeopardy, we will take it extremely seriously no matter what the nature of the threat is, and we will act swiftly and that’s exactly what we did today.”
Including staff, about 3,000 people were affected by the school closures.
Elementary schools within the district implemented a ‘hold and secure’ protocol but continued to be operational.
Despite reports the threat was posted to social media, Lee could not confirm the details, but added the information the school district received was specific to one secondary school.
Thursday was also the day for Grade 12 students to write their provincial exams, and Lee explained one of the first things the district did was to notify the Ministry of Education.
The district confirmed later in the afternoon provincial exams set for Thursday were re-scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday morning.
Const. Rob Gardner of the Comox Valley RCMP said investigators will be liaising with Crown counsel and SD71 as to possible resolutions to the day’s events.
The two students have been released into the care of their parents.
He noted police always take every threat seriously.
“We receive these notifications in several different ways now; it’s not always by phone. But we have to take them as seriously as we can – we can’t just assume it is a joke in any means, in any time.
“This is a huge deal. There are several things that could happen. They can be charged under the criminal code – uttering threats, mischief … it’s super serious and we can’t have this happen.”
Alyssa Biollo, a Grade 11 student at Mark R. Isfeld, said she believes the district made the right decision in closing the schools.
“I got a phone call at 7:50 and I thought it was strange because I don’t usually get phone calls in the morning. (I was) just a bit confused at first.They definitely made the right decision … I’m glad they shut the schools down so that everyone was safe.”
All three high schools remained closed for the rest of the day, and police noted the investigation is ongoing.
-With files from Scott Strasser