Danbury High School dismisses early after ‘not credible’ threats
— Students at Danbury High School and two other programs were dismissed early on Friday following an unfounded report of a shooting and two other nontor credible threats.
“We deemed them not credible threats, but in an over abundance of caution and given the hour, we made the determination to dismiss early from Danbury High School, ACE and Reach,” said Kimberly Mango Thompson, direc of human resources and legal counsel to the
Board of Education, referring to the Alternative Center of Excellence and the Reach program for students in grades 6-12.
No other schools were dismissed, but afternoon preschool was canceled because the buses were needed to bring high school students home, Thompson said.
Schools across the state, including Norwalk, Hamden and New Milford, have faced similar incidents this week. The recent news comes on the heels of four students being killed in Michigan in a shooting at Oxford High School.
Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury also opened with an increased police presence on Friday after school officials were made aware of a post on social media depicting a student with a weapon. The weapon was determined to be not real, a spokeswoman for the Connecticut Technical Education and Career System said.
“The fake weapon was never in the school and no threats were made to students or the school,” said Kerry Markey, the spokeswoman. She said state police are investigating the matter.
In addition to the increased police presence, the school was opened in “lock out,” meaning unplanned visitors were not allowed in.
Authorities have not indicated whether any of these incidents are potentially linked.
Before Danbury students were dismissed on Friday, students at Norwalk High School and Norwalk P-Tech students were evacuated due to a bomb threat police later determined was a hoax. Hamden High School was closed Friday due to a threat of possible gun violence on Thursday night.
New Milford police investigated an Instagram post reported on Monday that turned out to not to be a “viable threat” to the high school.
“Given the events in the media, I think everyone is on guard and everyone is cautious,” Thompson said. “I would suspect, though I haven't spoken to anyone (at the campus), they probably were relieved with the dismissal and the diligence to which were pursuing these. It’s very difficult.”
Investigating the threats
Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito said he’s been in close contact with the superintendent and police chief, but had no further information about the incident.
“The chief and superintendent are taking the right approach to securing the safety of the kids, and with the chief, evaluating how this happened and how we can prevent it in the future,” he said.
The Friday morning report of shots fired at the high school turned up no evidence of gunfire, according to police officials.
Chief Patrick Ridenhour said the city’s emergency dispatch center took a call at 7:55 a.m. reporting shots fired at Danbury High School. He said patrol units immediately responded to assist officers that were already on campus.
“There were no injuries and at this time we have found no evidence of shots fired on the campus or in the surrounding area,” Ridenhour said.
As officers investigated, the high school temporarily went into shelter-inplace mode.
“The Danbury Police Department has worked with us to determine that the threat is non-credible and the shelter in place has been lifted,” Superintendent Kevin Walston said in a now-deleted Facebook post. “All students are safe and we have returned to our usual school routines.”
He had said in an earlier post that officials had no evidence that shots were fired near the school or that a gun was on campus.
“Police have met with the student driving the reported car, but nothing has been substantiated,” Walston wrote.
But as the morning went on, there were two other “threats” to the building, Thompson said. She did not have any information about why officials deemed them not credible and did not provide details on what the threats entailed.
Esposito said he heard one of the threats came in an email.
“But they are investigating the contacts that were made with those threats, so hopefully in that investigation, something will come out of that,” he said.
Officials decided around 11:15 a.m. to dismiss school. Upward of 50 buses are needed to dismiss students, so it took about 45 minutes for everyone to leave campus, Thompson said. All after-school athletic practices and activies were canceled, according to a tweet from Danbury High School Athletics.
Thompson expected more information to be available later. Ridenhour said late Friday afternoon that there were no updates in the investigation.
“As there is uncertainty regarding the veracity of information concerned, we continue to investigate to identify anyone associated with the incidents,” Detective Lt. Mark Williams said in an email.