FERGUS – There was an “increased police presence” at Centre Wellington District High School (CWDHS) the morning of Dec. 2 after a serious threat of violence against the school and its students was made online the previous evening.
On Dec. 1 someone posted on Snapchat that they were going to “shoot up CWDHS with a Glock 23” on Dec. 2 at 11:12am.
“I’m done with the stress of the community has put on me [sic],” the person wrote.
On. Dec. 2, UGDSB spokesperson Heather Loney stated “few details are known … about the origin of the message or the identity of who posted it.”
She noted the school is open but students “will stay in their classrooms” and staff “will minimize the number of students in hallways and washrooms.”
Loney added school officials immediately contacted the police when they heard about the threat.
Wellington County OPP officials say they received information about “a threat of violence against” the school at about 8:20pm on Dec. 1.
“OPP are working in conjunction with the Upper Grand District School Board to investigate the source of the threat and have increased police presence,” police stated in a Dec. 2 press release.
There were two OPP cruisers parked in the CWDHS parking lot near the back of the school the morning of Dec. 2.
The previous evening the school posted a message on its website that did not contain much detail about the incident.
“We were made aware tonight of a concerning message regarding our school. Please know that we have notified police who now actively involved in investigating this with us,” the online message stated.
The school’s message noted additional staff and the UGDSB’s Crisis Response Team will be at the school on Dec. 2, along with police.
“We will continue to share details as we can. Please know that we take every situation regarding the safety of staff and students very seriously and are actively investigating this matter,” the message stated.
However, some parents, who were not aware of the threat until they were contacted by the school after 9am on Dec. 2, wondered why they were not informed earlier.
“Kids are already there, parents have already made their commute to work. This is far too late to be advising parents,” one mother stated in a message to the Advertiser.
She said she was particularly miffed by the delayed communication, given a recent school shooting in the U.S.
“This is terrifying,” she stated.
Asked about the delay in notifying parents, Loney stated, “Due to the late timing of learning about the message [on Dec. 1], a message was posted on the website rather than a call home.”
She added board officials were “waiting on an update from police prior to sending a message home” on Dec. 2.
“Given the late hour of the situation last night, we will re-evaluate our guidelines around how late phone calls to families can be sent,” Loney told the Advertiser.
The incident marks the 17th time police have been called to CWDHS since the start of school in September.
In comparison, as of Nov. 26, there have been 16 calls combined to the other three high schools in Wellington County – in Erin (six calls), Palmerston (seven) and Mount Forest (three).
According to the OPP, there have been three calls about assault and one for cyber bulling/harassment/stalking at CWDHS. One incident resulted in a charge of assault with a weapon and four resulted in student suspensions, police say.
School officials have acknowledged an increase in homophobia and transphobia at the Fergus school this year, but this is the first time there has been a threat of this nature.
Police are asking anyone with information about the Dec. 1 threat to call the OPP at 1-888-310-1122.
To remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 (TIPS) or submit a tip on-line at www.csgw.tips. Tip providers may be eligible for a reward from Crime Stoppers of up to $2,000.
-With files from Paige Peacock