‘We’re being very vigilant’: 8 Utah schools closed Monday because of threats

Classes moved online Monday at Bear River High, two middle schools and five elementary schools.

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Bear River High School in Garland on Monday, Dec. 13, 2021.

The Box Elder School District closed eight of its schools on Monday because of “alleged threats and social media postings.”

Classes were moved online Monday at five elementary schools — Century, Fielding, Garland, McKinley and North Park — as well as Harris Intermediate, Bear River Middle School and Bear River High School.

The Tremonton Garland Police Department had announced Sunday that there would be “extra police presence at some of the schools as a precaution,” according to a Facebook post. Police and school officials later updated that to school closures “based on new information.”

According to district officials, gun and bomb threats were made against Bear River High and the two intermediate schools. No threats were made against the nearby elementary schools, which were closed as a precaution.

“We are taking every precaution to ensure the safety of our students and staff,” the district posted on Facebook. “Police are still investigating and will continue to vet any and all alleged threats.”

Initial apparent threat followed by videos

Concerns first arose Friday when administrators at Bear River High were made aware of an apparent threat etched onto a bathroom toilet paper dispenser at the school, said Keith Mecham, assistant superintendent for Box Elder School District. A firearm had been etched into the plastic, Mecham said, along with a message indicating that “something was going to happen” on Monday’s date, Dec. 13.

Photos of the etching began to surface on social media Friday evening. Mecham said Tremonton Garland police began to investigate the etching’s handwriting.

Bear River High School Principal A.J. Gilmore sent an email to parents indicating there would be an increased police presence at the school’s Winter Ball on Saturday night. Mecham said that police told him they believed that they had identified the student or students responsible for the etching.

“Early in the morning Monday, there were some other videos that surfaced that were enough of a concern that they needed to hold off on having school,” Mecham said.

Mecham said the videos had students in them, though it wasn’t clear if they were Box Elder County students. He did not say what was depicted in the videos.

Superintendent announces shutdown

Referencing the videos, Tremonton Garland police recommended that the school district take extra caution, Mecham said. Superintendent Steve Carlson then informed elementary and middle school principals that classes would be held virtually Monday.

Police K-9s searched the schools and found no indication of an explosive device. Mecham said that search warrants were issued Monday afternoon and that police at the time were working to meet the student or students linked to the threats.

“We’re being very vigilant. We’re talking and working with the Tremonton Garland Police Department to make sure all kids and staff are safe,” Mecham added.

The threats weren’t made toward specific people, Mecham said, but made against schools as a whole.

Tremonton Garland police continue to investigate. A police dispatcher on Monday afternoon said that Box Elder County classes would resume in-person on Tuesday.

The move to virtual classes Monday came hours before West High School in Salt Lake City was placed on lockdown following a reported threat involving a firearm. Three students were detained in connection with the threat. After a search of West High, Salt Lake City police considered the campus and students safe.