School threats pepper Nation, border towns
Since the shooting in Florida on Feb. 14, schools around the country and close to the Navajo Nation received shooting threats, went into lockdown, or issued statements about potential gun violence.
Twenty-one minutes before this writing on Wednesday, Navajo Technical University posted on their Facebook page that the campus was locked down due to a threat on campus.
Ganado Unified School District had closed schools earlier in the day due to a threat, according to a Facebook post from the Ganado School Bus Drivers Association.
Phillip Francisco, Navajo Nation chief of police, said on Feb. 23 that a rash of threats had occurred at reservation schools since the Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 people.
The Navajo Times reported on its webpage the threat of a school shooting in Chinle, later determined a hoax, according to an email to teachers in the Chinle Unified School District.
By the following Tuesday, Tuba City Unified School District also canceled classes due to a threat.
“In the Tuba City case, we already have a suspect,” Francisco said. “There has been an arrest last week in one of the other cases. So far they seem to be unrelated, all different kids. So far they have all been hoaxes but we have been taking them very seriously and turning them over to the FBI.”
Francisco, school officials, and schools that posted about threats and canceled school days, agreed to a common theme – threats were to be taken seriously.
“We are stationing officers at threatened schools,” said Francisco.
He pointed out that the incidents were widespread and demanded a response from law enforcement.
“It’s been quite an epidemic,” the Navajo Nation police chief said. “They’re all different and all over the reservation and all different. We’re doing our best to keep on top of them and working closely with the FBI and the school districts to make sure we address every single one, and we will prosecute the offenders so they know this will not be tolerated.”
What should the public do if they see a threat of a school shooting on social media?
“Call both your local police district and your local school district immediately,” Francisco said.
The threats had also spread to border towns.
San Juan County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Jayme Harcrow said her department had become aware of three incidents since Feb. 14.
The Farmington Police Department announced that uniformed officers of all ranks, including the chief of police, will be making unannounced visits to schools in the Farmington Municipal School District.
“These are trying times in our community and across the nation,” Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe said, in a statement. “Students and faculty should feel safe in the environment in which they learn and teach. We are committed to the safety of our citizens and will continue to work closely with schools and law enforcement throughout the county on this issue.”