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Threat rumours spur internet use talks

The Grande Prairie Public School District is using last week’s scare as a way to talk to students about their internet use. Rumours of a school shooting threat spread rapidly over social media Wednesday afternoon, but RCMP deemed it not to be credible.

“Our schools are reviewing with teachers and talking about how we can help use this incident to support our students’ behaviour online,” says GPPSD Superintendent Sandy McDonald. “This will be a topic of discussion in many classrooms over the next little while.”

Around 5 p.m. on March 28th, Grande Prairie RCMP heard about a social media post indicating there may be violence at the Composite High School on the 29th. McDonald says their protocol when they hear a rumour of a threat is to first figure out how credible it sounds and how serious the potential risk is.

“In [Wednesday] night’s incident the threat was unknown and the potential risk, if true, was extremely high. Therefore our principal called the RCMP immediately and relied on their expertise and experience from there.”

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As word spread on social media pages, the superintendent posted on Facebook to let people know there was “no truth” to the rumours, which was followed by a post by Comp principal Dennis Vobeyda and RCMP confirmation to local media. McDonald says once they have facts that can be shared in a situation like this one, they use evens means possible to share them, including social media, media releases, and direct emails to staff parents.

“Until we have facts, we generally do not report on rumours if there is no immediate concern. [Wednesday] night the rumour was about something happening [Thursday]. We had time to investigate and prepare a response. In this case we found the source of the rumour and confirmed there never was a threat. If we would not have been able to do that, we would have responded differently.”

If a potential threat poses a risk to students and staff during the school day, the district has hold and secure and lockdown procedures that can be used. McDonald says they are following up with those responsible for starting the threat, but can’t comment on any actions being taken. No charges have been laid by RCMP.

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