At 7:40 a.m. on Wednesday, a female student at Middletown Middle School responded to an auto-generated text from the district's student wellness center, reminding her of her appointment with the center, with a “threatened act of violence.”
The student was not armed, however, and after detectives from the Middletown Division of Police traced the text message to her cell phone, inside the middle school, they interviewed the student.
She admitted to sending the text.
The student will face charges for “inducing panic” and will likely be in custody later today, said Middletown police chief David Birk, during a joint press conference with city schools’ superintendent Marlon Styles Jr. this afternoon.
Because the student was near the Miami University Middletown Campus, the university sent out five alerts from 10:20 a.m. to 12:24 p.m. on Wednesday, informing the community there was an active, armed suspect.
Miami police were informed the suspect was armed by Middletown police, which is why they sent a series of messages through Miami’s Emergency Text Messaging System referring to an “armed suspect,” Director of University News and Communications Claire Wagner wrote in an email to The Miami Student.
Brandon McKinley, head of security at Miami Middletown, told The Student there was no immediate threat to students, faculty or staff at the regional campus before Middletown police had tracked the student down.
Styles praised the Middletown police for their fast-acting response.
“All of our students are safe thanks to the leadership of Chief Birk,” he said during the press conference. “We will continue to have a normal school day today.”
Styles was called at 8:58 a.m. on Wednesday morning about the threat and immediately informed the school’s safety resource officer who placed Middletown High School, Middle School and Wildwood Elementary on a lockdown, meaning students were kept in their classrooms.
The rest of the school district was on a soft lockdown, where no one was allowed to enter or leave the building. At 12:31 p.m., the lockdown was lifted on all schools.
Asked if the decision to place the district on lockdown based off a text message was an overreaction, Styles emphasized that “safety first” was his priority.
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“Any potential threat we get, we take it seriously until we have full confidence the threat has been eliminated or addressed,” he said.
“I would rather go with the extreme safety for our kids than not follow up on it and something happens,” he added.
Styles urged parents and family members to talk to their children and stay in contact with their kids’ teachers and trusted advisors.
“It’s important to always know what’s on their minds,” he said.