Oxford High tragedy causes copycat threats in Fenton

Bree Soule, Online Editor-in-Chief

Tragedy struck on Nov. 30 as an active shooter open fired at Oxford High. Four students have since passed away with seven others injured. These four students included Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17.

CNN reported that this was the “deadliest school shooting on a K-12 campus in the U.S. since May 2018, forever scarring the Oxford community in suburban Detroit.”

Shooting suspect Ethan Crumbley, 15, was said to have opened fire after walking out of the men’s bathroom. Authorities say at least 30 shots had been fired. Crumbley has numerous charges against him including multiple counts of murder and terrorism. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, are also in custody and have been charged with involuntary manslaughter— all three pleading not guilty.

Not more than two days after the shooting, what was rumored to be “copycat threats” were made to other schools in the state of Michigan. One on the list being Fenton High. On Dec. 2, a Snapchat story post was shared around the school. The post read, ”This shoot week thing isn’t a joke. The shooter of Oxford made a [group chat] with kids who are gonna shoot up schools around the area.” 

Students fell into a frenzy as emotions were running high from the previous incident at Oxford. According to Fenton Area Public Schools Student Resource Officer Tom Cole, this Snapchat accusation was a “false narrative.”

During that school day, at least three different students went to see Cole, showing him the Snapchat being spread around.

“Nobody said in [the Snapchat] that they’re going to come to our school and hurt us,” Cole said. “Anybody who makes a school threat will get charged with a very serious felony. This in itself isn’t a message that somebody would get prosecuted for on that side. Luckily, I have contacts at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which I sent this specific Snapchat to which all these other agencies had sent it to him too. I contacted them and my contacts through Oakland County Sheriff’s Department said that all the information they have downloaded and all the documentation they’ve looked through shows there is no ‘group chat.’

Later that night, FAPS Superintendent Dr. Adam Hartley sent out a message to families, students and staff: “Due to an abundance of anxiety and tension within our school community, we have made the difficult decision to close schools tomorrow, Friday, Dec. 3. This decision is based not only on the anxiety and fear felt among our families, but is also due to the fact that our staff was overwhelmed with the number of phone calls, emails and students being signed out during the school day.”

Although there was no threat made, faculty were still concerned about the situation for other reasons.

“What concerned me was the fact that through social media, hysteria, anxiety and stress— which I understand because Oxford just happened— I couldn’t shut down, I couldn’t control it,” Cole said. “I couldn’t get information out to you all fast enough to kind of calm everybody down.”

With the amount of shares on this one post, it become difficult to track down the original creator.

“I implore you, as a student body, to either go to your teacher, come down and talk to an administrator or myself. Let us investigate it,” Cole said. “Once you get it and you show it to an adult and we’re starting to investigate it, please don’t continue sharing it around. The more people resend it, the more that it’s stamped which makes it harder to find out their original sender on it. By spreading it, it’s not awareness that you’re spreading— it’s fear. Trust in us, trust in me that we are going to do everything in our power to keep you safe.”

The original creator of the Snapchat story will face serious consequences when their identity is learned for the panic they incited that day at Fenton High and the other schools they listed. The FBI is working to find out their identity. However, this hasn’t been the only “copycat” since the Oxford shooting.

“I know of four students in this area that were arrested and taken to juvenile detention [for making or joking about a threat,]” Cole said. “I think some students don’t know how to process everything. Kids are going to be going to jail because they’re going to be getting prosecuted, even if it was just a joke. Even if they were just mad and they’d never [follow through on those ‘threats’] It does not matter. You’re going to get prosecuted for it and it could potentially ruin the rest of your life.”

These threats are chased down by the police to the fullest extent, whether it’s just a rumor or not.

“Every statement, whisper or anything like that that gets brought to us I investigate 1,000 percent,” Cole said. “Anything that’s brought up to us from you guys or staff members— we investigate to the fullest even if it’s just a rumor. I can promise you that if the Fenton Police Department and your administration here felt like there was any threat at all, we would have locked down the school and people would have been sent home.”

The Fenton High students, administrators and the Fenton Police Department are looking for ways to increase the level of safety at FHS. If you would like to be a part of a round table discussion about how to improve the safety, speak with Cole in the school halls or via his Fenton schools email: [email protected].