Potential threat to PHS deemed a hoax; investigation ongoing

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Police are planning a higher-profile presence in Powell schools over the coming days after a post containing a potential threat was circulated on social media on Monday.

“It is clear now that the social media posts were in fact a hoax,” Park County School District No. 1 Superintendent Jay Curtis said in a Monday night message to parents, adding, “At this time, there is no credible threat to the high school, nor any other school in our district.”

Curtis said school officials requested a “heightened law enforcement presence” as a precaution.

“I understand that this may cause a sense of fear, but I want to ensure our families that we are taking every precaution to keep our students and staff safe,” he said in the message.

Powell Police Chief Roy Eckerdt said the post in question featured pictures of several handguns, captioned, “can’t wait for school.” School officials learned of the image late Monday afternoon, Curtis said, receiving “multiple tips from concerned parents and students.”

The image appeared to have come from a Powell High School student’s Snapchat account, but that student told police the image had been manipulated, Eckerdt said. The results of the department’s initial investigation “indicate that his account was manipulated,” Eckerdt said Monday night.

Police are continuing to investigate the image’s origin and Eckerdt suggested that whoever created the post could potentially face criminal charges.

“We can’t take the threat lightly,” the chief said. “Even if it’s a case of somebody manipulating somebody else’s account, there’s nothing humorous about that.”

The incident comes just days after a 17-year-old high school student in Santa Fe, Texas, opened fire in a deadly attack at his school — and amid a nationwide discussion about safety in schools.

In March, Powell school officials and police said they had dealt with a threat to Powell Middle School.

“In the times that we live in, we can’t afford to ignore or assume anything,” Eckerdt said, adding, “The investigation [of Monday’s incident] will be ongoing and will follow up on what’s occurred, keeping in close communication with the schools and working through the process.”

Superintendent Curtis told parents that the district has asked for the heightened law enforcement presence through the end of the week; the school year ends on Thursday.

“As always, safety is and has to be our number one priority,” Curtis said.

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