Threats of a purported gunman looking “to do a clean-up” of a northern New Brunswick high school that prompted the closure of 18 schools Wednesday have turned out to be a Halloween hoax.
Police said their investigation is now revolving around “acts of public mischief,” and that they are continuing to interview people who may be able to identify those responsible for the calls.
“Our investigation has shown that there was never a real threat and we can confirm that it is a hoax,” Edmundston Police Insp. Steve Robinson said in a statement.
Police said a first call was received at 5:34 a.m. Wednesday by a man who said that his son’s friend intended to go to Edmundston’s Cite des Jeunes A.-M.-Sormany High School with a rifle.
A second anonymous call at 6:15 a.m. indicated that a male student was carrying a rifle in a guitar case.
The Francophone North West School District, which has roughly 5,200 students and 880 employees in the Grand Falls, Edmundston, Saint-Quentin and Kedgwick regions, shuttered all of its schools and offices in response to the threats.
Luc Caron, director of the school district, said schools and administrative offices will be open Thursday.
“We are relieved by the outcome and would like to thank the parents for their understanding,” he said in a statement.
“Every school is ready to welcome and accompany students and staff members tomorrow.”
Police sought to reassure parents shaken by the threats, saying Halloween trick or treating could be held with “complete peace of mind.”
Robinson of the Edmundston police said the RCMP is involved in the investigation because the calls appeared to be coming from the Haut-Madawaska region.
The high school allegedly targeted – Cite des Jeunes A.-M.-Sormany – has approximately 1,300 students in Grades 9-12.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Brian Kenny said earlier Wednesday that the safety and security of students and staff was a priority.
“We understand that district officials and police made a decision to close all schools as a precaution as initially it was unclear where the threat was coming from or if a specific school was being targeted,” he said in an emailed statement.
A social media post by the school district early Wednesday indicating all schools were closed was initially met with confusion as parents and students scrambled to figure out what was going on.
However, as news of the threat became apparent, many took to Facebook to praise authorities for their quick response.
Police are asking for the public’s assistance to identify those responsible for the prank calls.