Students exit West High School over perceived gun threat despite reassurance from administrators
Dozens of students at Mankato West High School left classes Thursday over a perceived gun threat, despite assurances from school administration that the matter has been fully investigated.
SMN has learned from four parents that their children have left the building for the day, citing threats of a potential shooting circulating by word-of-mouth and on social media.
One parent said so many children were leaving the building that it was difficult to get out of the parking lot. Parents said their children were terrified about the matter in light of the deadly school shooting in Michigan on Tuesday, in which four students were killed.
Mankato West Principal Sherri Blasing sent an email to parents on Thursday morning, which said the incident had been fully investigated and the report was not valid. According to Blasing’s email, one student had overheard another student saying something about “shooting up the school.” But parents tell SMN that the threats were made on Snapchat, a social media network that deletes posts after the recipient views them.
Stacy Wells, a media liaison for Mankato Area Public Schools, said the accused student’s social media accounts were investigated by the school. Wells said two reports were received by the school, one on Monday and another Thursday. Wells said the school’s investigation found that neither threat report was found to be valid. She also denied claims that the student was found in possession of a gun at school and was allowed to return the following day.
Wells noted that there hasn’t been a report of an actual gun at the school, but rather rumors on social media that were circulating from the students.
A spokesperson with the Mankato Department of Public Safety said the school had not filed any reports with police about the incident.
“We understand that parent and student concern is heightened following the school shooting in Michigan,” said Blasing’s email. I can assure you that we are always “heightened” to concerns of safety and security, we take all reports seriously, and we have safety plans and procedures that we follow.”
Blasing told SMN she is not exactly sure of the number of students who left for the day, but by rough estimate guessed it was around 25. Blasing said she told students during one-on-one conversations that they should do what felt best to them; students won’t face any repercussions for going home.
“It’s an emotional time,” Blasing said. She said she understands that parents and students are heightened after the shooting, but the incident comes down to unsubstantiated rumors.
Blasing adamantly denied that the school isn’t taking the issue seriously. “If there is any inkling that there is substance to anything, we’re going to be following our safety procedures to the letter,” she said. “This has not risen to that level.” She confirmed that no police report was filed.
Parents told SMN said they felt the issue was not being taken seriously by school administrators, particularly on the heels of the Michigan shooting. Blasing invited those parents to contact her directly.