An Oakville High School student is in custody after being arrested over the weekend for making threats to “shoot up” the school, according to an email sent to parents Monday night by Principal Jan Kellerman.
A 16-year-old OHS student wrote a Facebook post that other students attending a baseball game at the high school Saturday saw as a threat against the school, so they reported the posting to Oakville Activities Director Becky Czuppon, who alerted Kellerman. School Resource Officer Mike Andrews and other members of the St. Louis County Police Department then took over and began an investigation.
Police spokeswoman Vera Culley confirmed that the student was arrested Saturday and is still in juvenile custody. Juvenile court records are closed to the public.
As word of the threat spread Monday night on social media — especially after a parent posted a prayer to the Oakville Residents Unite Facebook group that incorrectly stated a gun had been found in the student’s room by police — some parents were upset with Kellerman, Superintendent Chris Gaines and the district for not sending out an earlier warning to parents.
In the email sent to parents, Kellerman said that no gun was found or involved in the incident, which Gaines confirmed to the Call Tuesday morning.
“There was no gun, we confirmed that again this morning,” Gaines said. “No gun was involved. No gun was found.”
Gaines said that he did not know about the incident until 8:45 p.m. Monday, when his phone started blowing up with text messages. Kellerman and Andrews wanted to send out an email notifying parents of the threat over the weekend, he said, but a supervisor — not Gaines — told them not to.
“Jan and Mike are beating themselves up for not sending something, but feel like they were told not to do so,” Gaines wrote in an email Tuesday morning that Board of Education members were copied on.
Word trickled out Monday, and the high school took three concerned calls from parents during the school day, but most parents didn’t find out until the Oakville Residents Unite posting that night.
“We should have sent something out and we didn’t,” Gaines said. “It’s better to be proactive about that stuff than reactive — the high school wanted to over the weekend, and they were told not to worry about it, see how things evolved. And that was not a great plan of action on our part.”
School board members — including ones with children in the district and at Oakville High School — were also unaware of the incident until they learned about it on Facebook.
Board of Education President Samantha Stormer’s son is a student at OHS, and she found out about the threat from Facebook.
When Stormer was elected school board president Thursday, she told the Call that one of her priorities as board president would be improving the district’s communication, a goal even clearer in light of how the communication to OHS parents was handled.
“First, I have to commend all those involved and how quickly and professionally the situation was handled,” she said. “Communication is something we have been working hard at, and this situation shows us we still have a lot more work ahead of us. Social media is not the place to find out information like this. Going forward, we will be going over our communications plan to make sure we are keeping our parents informed of what is going on in our schools.”
Although police and the district take any such threat seriously, the incident did not appear to go beyond non-specific words on Facebook, Gaines said, with the student posting something to the effect of, “Give me one like and I’ll shoot up the school.”
“It appears to be an inappropriate comment, just made on Facebook, but you can’t do that these days,” Gaines said. “We’re just glad the kids let us know. It just shows you how good our kids are.”
Since juvenile records are closed, Gaines is unaware of the status of the student’s case, but if the student could return to school, Deputy Superintendent Brian Lane — who oversees Oakville schools — and Assistant Superintendent Jeff Bresler would decide on what punishment he should receive from Mehlville for the post, which Gaines suspected would involve a “lengthy” suspension.
“Parents and Students, It has come to my attention that there is some misinformation in social media about an issue that occurred on Saturday, April 16. Here are the facts of the issue:
1. A student posted threats on facebook about shooting up school, and students shared this feed with school personnel.
2. Oakville’s SRO and county police are handling the matter.
3. The student was arrested on Saturday and remains in juvenile detention.
4. The student will not be at school.
5. There were no guns connected to the incident.
Please feel free to call if you have further questions. I hope all student will be at school again tomorrow as we have ACT testing, service learning, and freshmen assembly.”