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Local 5 - weareiowa.com | Des Moines Local News & Weather | Des Moines, Iowa

Students return to school following threats

JOHNSTON – It is back to school for Johnston students, after what police are calling a cyber-threat shut down the district on Tuesday.
Students return to school following threats_63997594

JOHNSTON – It is back to school for Johnston students, after what police are calling a cyber-threat shut down the district on Tuesday.

Police say they are making progress in figuring out the source of the threat, but as Wednesday night, no one is behind bars. As an extra precaution, officers did security sweeps of all the school district buildings on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. But students at Johnston High School say they are no longer afraid.

Johnston High School Senior Zach Miller, says his friends received some messages, but their initial fear has gone away.

“At first I got a little scared and sketched out,” Miller said. “Obviously they were kind of freaking out because they were getting the texts and they were kind of scary at first, but then as they went on and on and nothing really happened.”

Police are now treating this as a cyber-crime, meaning the messages were sent with a computer or over the internet, most likely through hacking. Johnston Police said Wednesday there is no credible threat to the community. Most students agree with the district’s decision to shut down on Tuesday.

“I mean for safety precautions and parents not freaking out, it probably was a good idea,” said Miller.

“I mean it kind of sets us back, but I mean, it’s probably the best move,” said Nick Gipson, a Johnston High School Senior.

Johnston is not the only school district who saw these threats. West Des Moines schools say one of their students also got one.

“We did not take the single text incident lightly,” said Laine Mendenhall-Buck, director of school community relations for West Des Moines Community Schools.

The district says whenever they get these kinds of threats, including the one this week, they work closely with police to determine their next steps.

“Through their advice, it was in the best interest of our students to keep students in the classroom and to not disrupt that particular day by letting out early or changing anything to our normal schedule,” Mendenhall-Buck said.

If their threat was similar to Johnston’s, they say closing school is something they would definitely consider.

“We certainly would not take any unnecessary risks to the safety of those individuals,” Mendenhall-Buck said.

When it comes to the risk in Johnston, students believe they are now safe and in good hands.

“I think the police got it under control. They obviously can figure it out and they know what’s going on,” Miller said.

Johnston Police want to reassure everyone that students in Johnston are safe. Students and parents will see more police at schools for the next few days. They also say in the past 24 hours, no additional credible threats toward Johnston have been found.