Police in southwestern Ontario have laid charges against a high school student as they investigate several cases of graffiti threatening shootings at schools in the region.
Waterloo regional police spokeswoman Cherri Greeno said the student was charged in connection with a message at a school in Cambridge, Ont. – the sixth school in the area to be hit with graffiti threatening violence since mid March.
A female student at the Cambridge school was arrested Tuesday and charged with mischief under $5,000 and uttering threats to cause bodily harm or death, Greeno said. Police are not providing the age of the student but say she is under 18.
“(The message) was spray painted on the side of a storage unit at the school and said ‘school shooting April 6th,”’ Greeno said. “All the other schools had similar messages, most of them were written in bathroom stalls, around harm being done at a school in terms of a shooting, all given different dates.”
The first incident of graffiti threatening violence took place at a high school in Kitchener, Ont., on March 21, Greeno said. That message was found on a bathroom stall and read “school shooting March 28th, not a joke, watch out,” she said.
Since then, five other schools in the region have been hit with alleged “copycat” incidents, which police say are all still under investigation.
“Whatever the intention behind these messages are, whether it’s considered a joke at the time, it certainly isn’t considered a joke to the students that share the school with these people … as well, it’s a significant drain on police resources,” Greeno said.
“We have had officers respond to each incident, working with the school board to a ensure a safety plan was put into place for students and staff.”
The Waterloo Region District School Board, which the Cambridge school is a part of, said the threats have caused “considerable disruption and worry for our students, staff and parent community.”
“We will work to ensure that those responsible for these threats know there are significant consequences to these choices and actions,” the school board said in a statement issued Wednesday. “These types of situations will be fully investigated and disciplinary action will be taken as appropriate. Consequences, on the part of the school board, could include suspension and or expulsion.”
The Cambridge student’s arrest comes about two weeks after Ontario Provincial Police arrested five tweens and teens, charging them with threatening schools on social media.
Officials said at the time that they have seen a recent “spike” in online threats following a Florida school shooting in February in which 14 students and three teachers were killed.