By JIM MEYER
Recent rumors of Oil City High School going into lockdown because of a threat were based on social media gossip spinning out of control, according to Oil City Police Chief Bob Wenner.
“This has been taken so far out of context because of social media,” Wenner said. “Social media is not a credible news source.”
While police responded to a Feb. 15 incident of students making verbal threats, Wenner said no weapons were found, no actual threat existed and no lockdown occurred.
“There’s nothing we’re going to disclose on that, considering it involves juveniles,” Wenner said. “It will track through the juvenile court system.”
High school principal Scott Stahl released an automated phone call to families of students Wednesday with the intention of quelling the rumor.
“I never want to discredit anyone’s concern for their child’s safety,” Stahl said.
He added that he understood the anxiety as the verbal threats occurred the day after the Feb. 14 high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 14 students and three staff members.
The call contained a recorded message from Stahl informing families that school was business as usual and that the Feb. 15 incident had been resolved with the help of police.
Stahl admitted that for those unfamiliar with the previous week’s incident, the call may have added fuel to the fire in terms of speculation.
“The intention was to set everyone’s fears to rest,” Stahl said. “It was not our intention to fan the flames.”
Stahl said the reason families weren’t notified immediately was because the threat was found to be nothing more than verbal and that he is legally bound to protect the confidentiality of minors.
Oil City Superintendent Pat Gavin said he spent much of Thursday morning fielding phone calls from concerned parents.
“The rumor yesterday (Wednesday) was that we were on lockdown and there were weapons in the high school and weapons at the Hasson building,” Gavin said. “There were no weapons and there is no lockdown.”
“We always want to be open with the community and the parents but we’re dealing with confidential issues,” he said. “I can’t say, and wouldn’t want to say, what the threats were and who the students were.”
Gavin explained that on the afternoon of Feb. 15, some comments were made by students and then reported to the office by other students.
“They reported it, and that’s what we want them to do,” Gavin said. “That’s part of the culture we’re trying to establish. The office took the threat seriously and had the police do an investigation.”
Stahl said the students’ response was the best part of the situation.
“Our students were the ones who came forward because they believe in the school community,” he said. “That’s something we want to continue to foster.”