Regional centre, RCMP explain protocol when it comes to threats at schools

Lockview High School in Fall River. (Healey photo)

After rumour left parents worried, The Laker asked HRCE and police about process

FALL RIVER: The Halifax Regional Centre for Education (HRCE) and Halifax District RCMP take threats towards the safety of staff and students seriously, the two say in responses to questions about a recent rumoured threat at Lockview High School.

After being contacted by several parents about a rumour of a school shooting to take place Sept. 23 at the Fall River school—a rumour that was proven to not be credible—The Laker contacted HRCE and RCMP to find out their processes for investigating such a threat and communicating that to parents/guardians.

Many of the parents who had contacted The Laker had not heard anything from the school before sending their children to school. Some kept their kids home as a precaution. The school issued a letter about mid-morning Sept. 23.

Doug Hadley, spokesman with HRCE, said any potential threat to the health and safety of students and staff is taken seriously.

“When a situation occurs, the school principal conducts a “threat-risk assessment” where they assess the seriousness of a threat and take appropriate action,” said Hadley. “A threat-risk assessment often involves gathering information from a number of sources such as a vice-principal, guidance counsellor, students, police, HRCE staff, etc.”

He said there are many factors that are considered when determining a course of action.He explained what took place on Sept. 23.

“After conducting the threat-risk assessment, which included contacting RCMP, it was determined that there was no credible threat to the health and safety of students at Lockview and it did not warrant any alteration to the daily routine on Monday,” he said.

Lisa Croteau, Halifax District RCMP spokeswoman, explained RCMP investigate all calls involving threats to a school, including when the information is received through a third party or via social media.

“The priorities are to determine public safety risk, to interrupt and disrupt any threat plan from proceeding, and to identify and locate the source of the threat,” said Croteau.

She said when a threat is received, police would advise a representative of the school that they are investigating a potential threat pertaining to their school.

“We will continue to work with the school administration to further the investigation,” she said. “A connection with the school is maintained throughout the investigation.”

Croteau was asked what does the RCMP do in the case that either a threat is deemed a joke or not credible and when it is a real possible situation.

“The RCMP treats each threat complaint as being credible and responds accordingly until the investigation determines otherwise,” she said. “If the investigation reveals a real situation then the person responsible, if known, will be arrested and charges may follow. If the threat is proven false, then the person(s) involved will be educated regarding the consequences and potential impacts of their actions.

“The School Safety Resource Officers will be involved in these investigations and conduct follow-up.”

She added that the RCMP wanted Nova Scotians to be aware there could be serious criminal consequences to making a threat to a school and investigating complaints where a false threat was made ties up police and school resources.

Hadley said there is no “hard and fast rule” for HRCE when it comes to communicating with families.

“We want to ensure our schools strike the right balance between keeping parents/guardians informed and not creating unnecessary alarm by validating rumours that have no credibility,” said Hadley.