INDEPENDENCE, KY. (FOX19) A “massive number of students” were absent from Simon Kenton High School Thursday while police continued to investigate what turned out to be social media “rumors” about a school shooting, a school spokeswoman said.
At last check, 400 students were out, said Jess Dykes with Kenton County School District.
Independence police said they began investigating with school officials Wednesday after a social media post warned of a school shooting and concern circulated among students and parents.
There was no credible threat to the school and it appeared to be nothing more than social media “rumors,” police and school officials said Thursday morning.
“It’s an important topic to discuss with any type of student. You know when you see something on social media or if you hear something in school it is imperative that you report it so that we can investigate it and then let everyone know that this is not a credible threat,” Director of Public Information and Community Engagement for Kenton County Schools Jess Dykes said.
Captain Scott Paul said the incident remains under investigation. Even though there is no apparent threat, he noted, police still must take these situations very seriously.
Police presence was stepped up at the high school Thursday, and Scott said he told officers to let students know they are safe and can talk to them.
“The sad thing is, meantime, we have all other things happening and we have to address those needs while addressing something incredible. Let’s face it, what more valuable asset do we have other than our kids?”
Classes were running on schedule, a school district spokeswoman said.
Principal John Popham alerted parents to the unfounded social media rumor in a 6 a.m. phone call as part of the school’s automated calling system, Dykes said.
He also told them extra precautions would be taken at the school, she said.
“We sent it out early not to scare parents, but to inform them and be proactive. I hope that didn’t backfire on us," she said.
“We want parents and students to know before they go to school. If they want them to stay home, they can stay home. That’s your right every day, but we were proactive in the communication so parents could talk with their students before they left for school.”
She said the call did not go out before Thursday morning because school officials and police officials were working and investigating late into the evening Wednesday.
“You don’t want to send two messages. You want to wait and send out one message with everything you know in it,” she said.
Still, she acknowledged, “we have a massive number of students who are absent” Thursday.
Nearly 1,800 attend the high school, she said.
Mike Putthoff said he didn’t receive the automated call notifying parents of the social media “rumor” because he and his wife recently obtained new cell phones and have not updated the school with their new numbers.
He said his son, 15, messaged him at 1 a.m. about an Instagram post warning that someone planned a school shooting.
“I messaged him back and called Independence police and they said they were aware of it and investigating,” Putthoff said. “I kept looking online to try to get more information.”
He said he told his son the decision whether to go to school was up to him, and he ultimately decided to stay home.
“We were just trying to be a little more safe than sorry,” Putthoff said.