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School threats should bring 'significant consequences,' Michigan superintendent says

Craig Mauger, The Detroit News on

Published in News & Features

LANSING, Mich. — Individuals making threats against Michigan schools should be prosecuted and face "significant consequences," Michigan Superintendent of Public Instruction Michael Rice said Thursday.

Rice made the comments two days after four students were killed in a mass shooting at Oxford High School and the same day an array of districts in Metro Detroit closed amid reports of threatening social media messages.

"An individual who threatens a school should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law," Rice said in a Thursday interview. "And this is a grievous crime. It is not funny. It is not play. It is disrupting school communities.

"This is not an unusual phenomenon. ... It is a despicable phenomenon.”

A former local superintendent in Kalamazoo, Rice is the top state official in Michigan public education. He is the principal executive officer of the state Department of Education and advises Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the state Legislature on policy decisions.

Multiple school districts in southeast Michigan said they were closing their doors on Thursday and some Friday because of potentially threatening social media messages.

 

For example,the Troy School District said it had learned about a Snapchat message "where a student in Rochester speculated about a rumored threat to a school in Rochester or Troy. A similar message was being circulated throughout Oakland County replacing 'Troy' with the name of another district," spokeswoman Kerry Birmingham said in an emailed statement.

The closures came as Michigan was grappling with the shootings in Oxford that left four teenage students dead and seven wounded. Three students remain hospitalized. The tragedy has reignited a debate in Lansing over whether the state needs stricter restrictions on firearms to prevent future violence.

Rice, who could play a key role in those discussions, said there's too great a prevalence of weapons, particularly among young people.

"We have to be more careful in our state, in our country about the prevalence of weapons," he said. "It’s just critical."

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