By Tim Kalinowski
Last Wednesday the Medicine Hat Police Service announced that an arrest had been made in the school “hold and secure” incident this past March. On March 7 threatening messages were received by students at local schools, including Eagle Butte High in Dunmore, causing widespread anxiety for parents and local authorities. A 17-year-old female from Elliot Lake, Ontario has been charged with three counts of Criminal Harassment, three counts of Uttering Threats, two counts of Identity Fraud and one count of Public Mischief as a result of the MHPS investigation. The suspect has had a previous history of sending such threatening messages in her hometown of Elliot Lake, and was already facing similar charges stemming from a 2015 incident there before this new arrest warrant was served on her by the Ontario Provincial Police at the request of Medicine Hat Police Service. Police further allege she used an online anonymous server, and information derived from Facebook and other social media sites, to send similar, personalized threats to students in schools in Saskatchewan and Florida.
Prairie Rose School Division Superintendent Brian Andjelic commended the MHPS for its efforts in discovering the suspect.
“Prairie Rose School Division is pleased with the police persistence required to apprehend the alleged perpetrator,” said Andjelic after hearing of the charges. “I hope she gets the help she needs.”
Andjelic also hoped if the suspect is ultimately be found guilty, that her sentence would reflect real consequences for her actions.
“These types of things have to be taken seriously, and, like other kinds of threats that are made, there is no place for that in our schools or in our society,” he said. “For people to think something like that is funny is just not right.”
The incident has had one positive benefit. According to Andjelic the March “hold and secure” at Eagle Butte High, and other Medicine Hat area schools, has prompted PRSD and other local divisions to improve their communications software and strategies to deal more quickly and effectively with them should serious incidents like these arise in the future.
“We plan to move training forward in our own school division as a result of this case while working with the media and our parents to inform everyone of the safety protocols, and what types of communication they shall receive should there be a future incident.’”
Andjelic also praised PRSD staff and teachers who acted quickly to ensure students remained safe until the police could give the all clear.
“Parents entrust us with the safety of their children, and that always comes first. We don’t regret any of the decisions that we made,” he said.