CAMDEN — A heightened police presence greeted students at Caesar Rodney High School Tuesday after a number of students reported receiving a picture of guns and knives via messages sent to their cell phones from an unknown individual.
That’s according to the Caesar Rodney School District, which informed the public of the incident that was reported Monday. The district also said Delaware State Police was investigating the incident and noted that, “To be clear, any individual found responsible will face prosecution.”
CR spokesman Mike Williams said the school district put messages on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“Superintendent (Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald) has done a few districtwide automated calls as well. Also, the (high school) has used their auto-email,” he said.
The district urges anyone with information on the incident to contact the school resource officer at Caesar Rodney High or Delaware State Police Troop 3.
On Tuesday, DSP spokesman Senior Cpl. Jason Hatchell said he spoke to the school resource officer at CR High and, “The investigation has determined an unknown subject screen shot a picture of two weapons and added text to it.
“The picture was then air-dropped to numerous cell phones within the building. There was never a direct mention about Caesar Rodney or any of its students.”
Later Tuesday, CR Superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald announced that the air dropped picture came from another state and other high schools nationwide had received the same image.
Dr. Fitzgerald issued the updated message through an auto call and it was posted on the district’s website as an “Important Message.”
The message read:
“The District wants to inform all students & parents of CR High School that we have received confirmation from the Delaware State Police that the air dropped picture of weapons sent to students at the High School yesterday originated in another state and was also distributed to schools in several school districts across the country. We want to thank the State Police, especially our High School Student Resource Officer for their efforts during the investigation. We also want to thank the High School administration along with the faculty and staff for their diligence.”
Cpl. Hatchell said the DSP’s High Tech Crimes Unit is “assisting with attempting to identify the person responsible. There was an added police presence at the school (Tuesday) morning.”
According to a post on the private CR School District Parents page, a member reported discussing the incident on her own Facebook account. A teacher friend in Washington responded that the same photo had circulated in four Spokane, Washington, schools on the same day, she said.
According to Apple Inc. online, “With AirDrop, you can wirelessly send documents, photos, videos, websites, map locations, and more to a nearby Mac, iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.”
The incident was the fourth in three school days at CR High that required a response by law enforcement, according to police and the district.
A CR student was arrested for carrying a concealed deadly weapon after being found in possession of a knife last Friday, state police said. On Facebook, the district described the instrument as a hunting knife that was located in a backpack. A utility tool was also located, CR said.
Last Thursday, Cpl. Hatchell, the high school’s SRO, investigated a terroristic threatening incident after a picture of a knife was circulated by a student. That incident was unfounded, DSP said.
Also on Thursday, according to Mr. Williams, DSP began receiving numerous calls after a parent made a social media post indicating that weapons could be present at the high school on Friday. The sequence began when a student punched a locker, the district said. The parent had received an “embellished story” from another student “who may or may not have seen the (locker punching) incident,” Mr. Williams said.
There were no threats to any students or teachers, the district said.
DSP investigated, Mr. Williams said, and asked the district to post a message that the story “was not true to help inform the community.” CR posted a message at 5 p.m. Thursday, he said.
In addition, a Facebook message on Dover High’s page on Friday acknowledged that a rumor of a weapon being brought to the school was circulating. The rumor, which was ultimately deemed not a credible threat, surfaced just before noon, the post read.
The post said an investigation with the Dover police commenced immediately to determine the rumor’s credibility. “The rumor included inaccurate information about Dover High School and was similar to a threat made in a local district yesterday,” the post read.
“As a result of the investigation through Dover Police, we have determined that the rumor is (not)a credible threat. Students were not in any danger.
“We express our appreciation to those who shared the information with district staff.”
Dover police shared the message on their Facebook page, “to ensure it reached a wider audience and dispel the rumors that were circulating amongst students and determined to be unfounded by the investigating officers,” spokesman Sgt. Mark Hoffman said.
When it comes to messaging, Mr. Williams said, “(The Caesar Rodney School District) has done its best to be timely, clear and forthcoming on each situation, within the limits of what is permissible to release regarding in-school issues dealing with minors.”
Mr. Williams said that while the incidents occurred within a short time of each other, they were not related and “each of them pertain to a different individual and separate circumstances.”
“The declaration of things being ‘not credible’ is a finding that the police make and (school district) then shares that message,” Mr. Williams said. “The (district) can only do what is within their scope. The recent incident in Michigan (where four students were fatally shot) certainly has many students and parents concerned, as they should be.”
Regarding all schools, Senior Cpl. Hatchell said, SROs have investigated 20 threat incidents.
“Some of these were personal threats against another student and some were larger threats of violence against the school,” he said.