TOPEKA — A Topeka-Seaman High School student was arrested Monday night in connection with social media threats referencing a deadly school shooting 18 years ago that officials said put district administrators and law enforcement officials on high alert.
Seaman USD 345 Superintendent Steve Noble said Tuesday he didn’t see the post himself but said, “I have been told by authorities that the word ‘Columbine’ was used in the social media post.”
Columbine High School, located in the Denver suburb of Littleton, was the location of an April 20, 1999, mass school shooting in which 12 students and one teacher were killed and 20 more were wounded. The two students who committed the shootings fatally shot themselves.
Phil McKay, USD 345 director of security, said he received a call at approximately 8:45 p.m. Monday from a USD 345 administrator who told him she had been given a Snapchat post that caused “some concern.” He said at about the same time, McKay said he was informed by a Shawnee County Sheriff’s deputy of the same threat on the social media site. He said the notification about the post didn’t come from the student’s parents.
“The sheriff’s office and I put together a game plan, and we were able to identify the individual,” McKay said, adding the case is the jurisdiction of the sheriff’s office and not of USD 345. “I was there to support them and to provide some information to the parents about what the school district would need.”
The Seaman student was transported to juvenile intake in connection with making a criminal threat, Sgt. Todd Stallbaumer, of the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office, confirmed. It wasn’t immediately known if the youth had been detained in a Shawnee County correctional facility or released back to his parents.
Stallbaumer wasn’t able to provide details about the exact wording of the online threats, only to say they were “general” in nature and not directed at any particular students or staff members at Seaman High School. He declined to provide a copy of the threat when asked by the Topeka Capital-Journal.
Noble said he was informed of the threat at about 9 p.m. Monday.
“The threat has been eliminated, and appropriate steps are being taken at the sheriff’s office,” Noble said, recalling what he was told by law enforcement officials at about 10 p.m. Monday night. “Once I heard everybody was safe, truthfully, it was school as usual for us.”
Noble said an email wasn’t sent out to parents informing them of the threat until Tuesday morning out of an abundance of caution.
“We wanted to get the right message sent the first time, and not get something out ahead of ourselves that we weren’t prepared and then make another statement,” Noble said. “It just confuses people.”
An email sent to Seaman parents Tuesday morning by Candace LeDuc, USD 345’s spokesperson, said school officials were “made aware of a threat on social media by a Seaman High School student” Monday night.
“We immediately contacted law enforcement and after an investigation, the student was apprehended at his home,” according to the statement from LeDuc. “We are very happy with the swift action from law enforcement and reporting from parents.”
The statement added that during arrival time for students on Tuesday morning, “there were additional law enforcement officers and administration present at the high school to mitigate student and staff safety concerns.”
The statement added: “We take every threat towards our students and staff’s safety very seriously.”
“It’s important for us to be visible and present after something like this occurs,” Noble said, “because it can bring some comfort and ease the concerns of our students, of our parents, of our staff.”
Noble said there won’t be any more than two law enforcement officers, McKay and a sheriff’s deputy who is already assigned to Seaman High School unless it’s determined more are needed.
Members of the USD 345 board of education were notified of the situation, Noble said.
Additional details, including the name of the student who was apprehended, weren’t immediately available.