RCMP and school officials in Kelowna acted swiftly to an online threat made Thursday against Rutland Senior Secondary school, ensuring that students and staff were safe.
“It was a very non-specific threat, that someone might come and harm the school,” Kevin Kaardal, Central Okanagan public school superintendent, said Thursday.
“With the tragedy that just happened in Michigan, we have a heightened sense of awareness at the district and as a result, we take these matters seriously.”
Kardaal said that while the Kelowna incident was a “very low threat” from a person who didn’t even attend the school, the high-profile nature of a Nov. 30 Michigan school shooting that left four dead can have a triggering effect and heighten the risk, thus the RCMP presence.
A letter was sent to parents alerting them of the incident.
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“We sent out the letter that went to families to watch those close to them,” he said. “There are people experiencing mental health issues in our community and when you see a shooting in the media, it can heighten distress and cause responses that create a risk to others. We wanted to respond with an abundance of caution to ensure the school is safe.”
In the letter to parents, principal Hugh Alexander said that the information about the threat was worrisome in nature and that’s why school officials initiated the community multidisciplinary violence threat risk assessment process, which included the RCMP.
“Police believe there is no threat to our school but due to the police investigation and privacy considerations, this is all I can share at this time,” Alexander said. “I do want to assure you that all staff and students are safe.”
Alexander also said provincial safety officers were tapped to help with the response.
Already there are measures in place at Central Okanagan schools aimed at ensuring safety even during worst-case scenarios.
“We always have rehearsals on lockdowns,” Kaardal said, adding that includes putting students in classrooms and locking the doors to avoid a threat.
“We hope to never face that circumstance.”