Update: Investigation into threats to Grand Meadow Public Schools concluded; students and staff to return Tuesday
(ABC 6 News) – On Monday, the Grand Meadow School District kept students at home, but not because of the weather.
According to an email sent out to families Sunday evening, the school had received threats in an online game that warranted concern over students and staff safety.
The threats to the school were made over Snapchat and an online video game this weekend; law enforcement say the threats caused enough concern to cancel school, and launch an investigation.
Around 3:15 on Monday afternoon, Grand Meadow Superintendent Paul Besel confirmed the investigation by Mower County Sheriff, Grand Meadow Police, and one other state law enforcement agency concluded and it was safe for students and staff to return on Tuesday.
Monday would’ve been last week of Grand Meadow Schools second quarter.
The threats came from an online lobby in the popular first-person-shooter game, Fortnite, which had students from Grand Meadow in it, playing with strangers.
“It’s something that we unfortunately have to have in our toolbox now, is school violence,” said Jim Richardson, Grand Meadow Chief of Police. “One juvenile said something that someone could take as a threat. But speaking with that juvenile, they did not feel threatened, but because other juveniles heard it. And we thought we would take the time to chase down every last detail.”
Games such as Fortnite have become popular with youth, as over two-thirds of the game’s player base is 24 or younger. While Fortnite developers introduced an improvement in their servers to report voice and text chat that is considered unsafe, some players still push the limits.
Richardson knows kids won’t stop playing games like this, but he hopes students and their families will be as vigilant as the student who reported the threat against Grand Meadow.
“It’s just important to know and educate your kids on just how to speak to others. Know what’s right and wrong, what words really can’t be said, especially when you’re online or on the internet, know there’s inappropriate language,” Richardson said.
While the investigation has concluded, the topic of online safety for school students is one Richardson expects will continue in the weeks to come for the Grand Meadow community.