Threats at Marquette

High school evacuates, closes for Thanksgiving week


Marquette High School in Chesterfield was evacuated two days in a row after threats were sent to students via AirDrop on Nov. 17 and 18, leading to the cancelation of classes on Nov. 21 and 22.

After multiple threats caused Marquette High School to evacuate and close early on Nov. 17 and 18, students spent the week of Thanksgiving doing virtual learning.

On Thursday, a threat was sent to a student claiming that a bomb was going to go off on campus at 1:30 p.m.. The school was evacuated then promptly dismissed once the message was reported. Rockwood’s Chief Communications Officer Mary LaPak said that, after an extensive police search, it was determined that there was no real legitimacy to the threat and returning to school the next day was safely possible.

“The Chesterfield Police spent over three hours with bomb sniffing dogs clearing the school and the campus. They assured us that nothing was found and that there was no credible threat to the building, which is why we returned to school on Friday, with an increased police presence as a precaution,” LaPak said.

The next morning, a photo referencing the threats was sent to multiple students around the school via AirDrop, an iPhone feature that allows users to send photos without an identifiable phone number, around 11 a.m.. This threat claimed that the previous threat “wasn’t a joke,” providing a specific room number and a start time of noon. Students reported the photo and, once again, the students and faculty were evacuated and dismissed. Senior Aarushi

Bute, who attends Marquette, said that the situation was much scarier on Friday.

“On Thursday, the evacuation wasn’t too intense; a few people were crying, but everyone else seemed confused. There was a lot more fear and chaos on Friday than Thursday, probably because of the likeliness of Friday’s threat and the emotional message behind the threat,” Bute said. “After [second lunch] an announcement came about the evacuation but by then everyone was running and crying to get out of the building. There was real, raw fear on Friday and it definitely felt more surreal.”

The school was searched as it had been the day before, but still no weapons or explosives were found. Principal Dr. Emily McCown said that after the threats, the administration was most concerned about the wellbeing of the people at Marquette. Afterwards, they began to assess the situation and learn about what worked

“[There was] concern for our colleagues. That’s a very difficult situation to go through. Your first concern is making sure everybody is safe, and then stepping back and looking at it to learn from, looking at how things played out, and [how the situation affects] the current systems that we have in place,” McCown said.

Senior G Schmiedeke, who knew students at Marquette, said the proximity made the threats seem a lot more realistic.

“It was scary that a family member of someone I’m really close to was put in danger. When you hear about issues at other schools, and it’s people you don’t know, it’s scary, but it’s not as scary as knowing that you know people [there]. That makes it so much worse.” Schmiedeke said.

Rockwood Director of Security and District Safety Officer Ty Dennis said that the district has been and continues to examine their security measures.

“The district will continue to evaluate what safety measures we have in place and we continue to meet with local law enforcement on what could be improved on. This was taking place before these incidents and has been a priority throughout the district,” Dennis said.

Later that day, the district made the decision to cancel in person classes on Nov.21 and 22. Instead, Marquette students had virtual learning. All other Rockwood schools were able to continue on as usual. Given that the week was only two days long for Thanksgiving break, LaPak said that going virtual was the best way to meet the emotional needs of the students and staff after the threats.

“The decision to go virtual was made out of concern for student and staff wellbeing. For staff, we wanted to give them the opportunity to come together without students to support them and allow them to support each other and have an opportunity to ask questions and process the events of Thursday and Friday. For students, given it was a short week and we wanted to provide that time to meet with staff, it made sense to switch to virtual learning for those two days with plans to return in person following the Thanksgiving break,” Lapak said.

Bute said that the decision to go virtual was good to help reduce the fear and stress of students and their families.

“I think returning to school Monday after such traumatic events would be hard. I even know many students who were already planning to skip Monday and Tuesday because [their] families were scared. Overall, I think it was smart and virtual learning offered a time to heal,” Bute said.

The threats came less than a month after two were killed and seven were injured in a shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis city on Oct. 24. A slew of copycat threats at schools in the St. Louis area soon followed. Three students, two from Belleville East High School and one from Hazelwood West High School, were even arrested for bringing firearms to school the day after the CVPA attack. attack. The spike of in-school violence sparked fear in students such as Schmiedeke, who said that the Marquette threats made them not want to return to school.

“Since there have been so many incidents at school recently, I was honestly scared of going back the next day. I knew that we were fine at Summit because it didn’t happen here, but since it was a sister school of our high school it scared me,” Schmiedeke said.

Lapak reaffirms the importance of safety in Rockwood. She also confirms the fact that the students responsible for the threats have been identified, although it is unclear if and how the threats were connected.

“Our schools are safe places and their safety is one of our top priorities. We have systems in place to protect them and we will continue to work with law enforcement and our staff to ensure they remain safe places. We have now also identified both students who were responsible for [the] threats [made on Thursday and Friday],” LaPak said.

Classes will resume at Marquette on Nov. 28, with extra law enforcement and safety procedures in place. LaPak also said that the district will continue to stress the importance of reporting all suspicious behavior.

“We will have an increased police presence, we will continue to provide counseling support for students and staff and we will be extra vigilant with our typical safety procedures like ensuring all doors are closed and locked,” LaPak said.

McCown said that she hopes the situation raises awareness to how threats are sent and can disrupt the school.

“I hope it brought to light some of the issues with social media, AirDropping photos, since that was some specific information given out about the situation, [and] just an awareness of how disruptive that can be to a school environment,” McCown said.

Even void threats have a great effect on the school community, Dennis said, and will be taken seriously by the district.

“We have to continue to tell when we see or receive threatening posts or texts. These threats may seem funny to some but they are not a laughing matter. The incident in itself disrupted school, activities, and the school

environment and community throughout Rockwood. I would like students to know that a lot goes into keeping

Marquette and the Rockwood School District safe and it continues to be a top priority to help everyone feel safe at school,” Dennis said.

Overall, McCown said that the situation was able to be handled because students reported the threats and Rockwood’s systems were able to function properly.

“We still want to take some trust in our systems that we have prepared. What happened there is that students became aware of a possible threat and reported it immediately to an adult, and then actions were taken and that was taken very seriously. I’m sure there were some kids that might’ve thought that was a joke, but obviously someone took that seriously and went through those motions. Trust that when you take something to an adult, actions will be taken,” McCown said.