Albert Lea police, school officials reassure parents on social media threats

Published 12:54 pm Friday, December 17, 2021

Albert Lea police and Albert Lea High School officials reassured students and parents Friday that they remain vigilant about rumors circulating on social media warning of shooting and bomb threats at schools across the country.

“School administration and the Albert Lea Police Department have fully investigated all threats and have determined the school to be a safe place for our students and staff,” said a message sent out to high school parents Friday morning.

Albert Lea Deputy Chief of Police Darren Hanson said there have been no threats specific to Albert Lea and Freeborn County.

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The department received a couple reports that they followed up on, and when they did it was clear that it was part of the situation taking place across the nation surrounding posts on TikTok.

Hanson said the department became aware of the national threats Monday and have been monitoring them since, also getting information from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

In a joint statement from the Police Department and the school district Friday afternoon, officials said they did not view the threats as credible for the community.

“To bring public attention to an unsubstantiated non-specific threat would have caused a great deal of stress and anxiety to the mental health of students, staff and their families. It would also encourage further irresponsible behavior on social media,” it stated. “The safety of our students and staff remains our priority. We will continue to communicate credible information to the community, as it is the practice of both the Albert Lea Police Department and Albert Lea Area Schools.”

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety said law enforcement and school administrators nationwide have seen an increase in the number of social media posts threatening school violence. Many of the social media posts contain similar wording or are duplicate posts not related to verified threats. The threats prompted some schools in Minnesota to close early on Friday.

Law enforcement agencies across Minnesota reported 29 threats to schools in Minnesota with nearly half of those threats coming in the last 24 hours. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety was unaware of any credible or a specific threat to schools in Minnesota. The department encourages anyone with information about a possible threat to contact their local law enforcement agency so the threat can be thoroughly investigated.

“Even though we have not seen any credible threat, it’s important for any report to be investigated to keep children and school’s safe,” said DPS Assistant Commissioner Booker Hodges. “It’s important for people to report any perceived threat to their local law enforcement agency.”

The State Fusion Center at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the School Safety Center in the DPS Homeland Security and Emergency Management division shared a message with schools, law enforcement and other partners alerting them of the threats. The ongoing threats circulating nationally on social media noted Friday as the date to carry out the threats.