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Police warn of recent threats at Lincoln Public Schools; none found to be credible
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Police warn of recent threats at Lincoln Public Schools; none found to be credible

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After two separate, vague threats were made toward two different public high schools Thursday, Lincoln police are sounding the alarm about the issue and other recent happenings across the school system.

"When these threats come in, they (school officials) take the threats seriously, and we work very closely with our Lincoln Public Schools partners … to vet all of these allegations," Lincoln Police Department Capt. Jason Stille said at an impromptu news conference Friday morning.

Stille said neither threat appears to be credible, but the spate of two threats — one aimed at Lincoln North Star and the other at Lincoln Northeast — in one day was concerning. He cautioned the false feeling of anonymity provided by social media and encouraged students and parents alike to report any posts that seem even vaguely threatening.

LPD has fielded 31 criminal reports stemming from all six of Lincoln's public high schools since Sept. 10, according to a Journal Star review of LPD dispatch records.

Among those reports are at least seven threats made against schools in the city — including threats directed specifically toward Northeast, Southwest and North Star, according to dispatch records. Two reported school threats do not identify a specific school.

One of the threats reported Thursday was a photo of a gun, Stille said, while the nature of the other threat was veiled and ambiguous. At least one threat surfaced via Snapchat.

Northeast Principal Keri Applebee sent a message to families Thursday after posts on social media threatening violence surfaced Wednesday. She said the school is working with police, including having an increased security presence this week.

"There has been heightened anxiety among students about possible threats of violence," Applebee said Thursday. "I want to be clear — There is no active threat of violence at Northeast High School."

On Friday morning, North Star Principal Ryan Zabawa said the school was aware of a photo circulating among students on Snapchat that directed threats toward the school. He said officials were working with police.

"This is an old photo without a specific date on it we have seen before that is making the rounds again," Zabawa said in a message to families. "Each time this image is shared, it makes it harder for us to determine the original source and investigate."

Police and school officials' warnings come after a tumultuous week for LPS. Reports emerged over the weekend of spiked drinks at Northeast's homecoming dance, prompting students and parents to protest outside the school over the lunch hour throughout the week.

School officials initially denounced social media claims of spiked drinks as "rumors" in an email to parents Saturday, but later applauded students "who have bravely come forward and contacted Lincoln police about their experience on Friday night" after a 16-year-old girl told LPD on Monday her drink was spiked at the dance.

Meanwhile, schools are reporting vandalism to bathrooms stemming from a nationwide social media blitz, causing "significant" damage in middle and high schools.

"We have had a challenging week," LPS officials said in a message to families, referring to the threats and bathroom vandalisms. "These have caused interruptions to our learning environment."

Lincoln police have fielded reports of at least one assault at every public high school in the city over the past seven days, dispatch records show, while reports of vandalism and larceny have been prevalent in most schools.

A dozen of the 31 reports originated at Southwest, according to records. And an instance of molestation or fondling was reported at Northeast on Saturday — the day after the school's dance marred by the claims of spiked drinks.

"There have been a variety of things that have happened at schools, stemming from assaults and disturbing the peace, vandalisms to items in bathrooms," said Stille, who directed specific questions to LPS. "Certainly, there were some issues at one of the homecomings."

LPS urged parents and students to continue reporting any threats of violence to school officials or law enforcement and to use social media responsibly. 

"Meanwhile, we assure you that today in schools our teachers are teaching and students are learning in normal school routines," LPS said.

Teen alleges her drink was spiked at Lincoln Northeast homecoming, police say
Lincoln Northeast students stage protest over alleged chaos at dance; principal calls claims 'rumors'
Quarantined elementary school students will have access to video lessons from LPS teachers

Reach the writer at 402-473-7223 or awegley@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @andrewwegley

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Breaking news reporter

A Kansas City, Missouri, native, Andrew Wegley joined the Journal Star as breaking news reporter after graduating from Northwest Missouri State University in May 2021.

K-12 education reporter

Zach Hammack, a 2018 UNL graduate, has always called Lincoln home. He previously worked as a copy editor at the Journal Star and was a reporting intern in 2017. Now, he covers students, teachers and schools as the newspaper’s K-12 reporter.

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