BURLEY — Continued school gun violence threats Wednesday in Mini-Cassia kept law enforcement and school officials wary and parents feeling scared.
Some parents were taking students out of school or keeping them home after a series of threats towards Minidoka County and Cassia County schools was shared on social media this week.
Minidoka County Sheriff Eric Snarr said a message that said someone would shoot up all the schools in Minidoka County at 3:15 p.m. on Feb. 21 prompted the sheriff’s office, Rupert Police Department and Heyburn Police Department to step up their presence at all the schools in the county.
The threat came on the heels of other threatening messages shared on social media on the night of Feb. 20 and on Monday, Feb. 19.
“I have no credible sources that lead me to think this is a credible threat,” Snarr said. “But we take all statements and threats very seriously.”
Snarr said his office is investigating all leads, and if they can prove a crime was committed in the county, even if the suspect is a juvenile, they will be prosecuted to fullest extent of the law.
Layla Gomez, mother of three children ages 7, 9 and 10 did not send her children to school on Feb. 21 after seeing information in the news about the threats and seeing social media posts discussing the issue.
“I’m going to keep them home until something is done,” Gomez said. “I have to feel confident that if I send them to school they will come home.”
Gomez said she did not receive notification of the threats from the school district.
“I didn’t receive any notification on either threat,” Gomez said. “And yet I got texts about snow closures and when they were canceling school because of the girls’ basketball games. But something as serious as a shooting threat — there was no text.”
Minidoka County School District Superintendent Ken Cox said the notification problem was due in part to timing of the threat and the notification system that was used.
“It was a big problem for us,” Cox said.
The issue has prompted the district to start to scrutinize the policies and procedures for the use of the parent notification system.
Cox asked the school administrators prior to 8 a.m. to send out text notifications on Wednesday but some schools did not send them out until later. Not all parents are signed up for the texts.
An all-call notification system is also in place that reaches every parent of a child, but it was not used, Cox said.
The school district is also working to improve its communication with law enforcement and with the Cassia County School District in the future.
Gomez said the school shootings happening across the country are having an effect on children. After the Florida shooting Gomez’s 9-year-old son asked her if she was afraid of them getting shot.
“They see this stuff on T.V.,” she said. “I don’t know if this stuff that is happening here is real or not but you keep them safe no matter what.”
Gomez said her nieces attend high school in Mini-Cassia and are terrified to go to school.
“This is causing a lot of anxiety,” she said.
Cox said the district doesn’t have definitive attendance numbers yet but over the past two days student absenteeism at the middle schools and high school may reach in the hundreds. Student absenteeism on Tuesday or Wednesday will be excused but absenteeism during the rest of the week will not, Cox said.
“It’s always a parent’s decision whether to send their child to school or not,” he said.
Cassia County Sheriff Jay Heward said Feb. 21 in a press release that the department is working with multiple agencies to investigate the threats.
He said law enforcement presence is also increased at Cassia County schools.
“The sheriff’s office is urging our community to be mindful of what you are posting or re-posting in regards to this highly emotional issue,” he wrote.
Cassia County School District reported a message found on the evening of Feb. 20 that came from an anonymous account that mentioned both Minidoka County and Cassia County schools.
“I’m going to keep them home until something is done. I have to feel confident that if I send them to school they will come home.” Layla Gomez,
mother of three