December 18, 2018
Updated: Nov. 9 at 7:09 a.m.

Michigan State Police respond to unfounded threat at Surline Middle School


WEST BRANCH — The Michigan State Police investigated a vague threat at Surline Middle School that was made over Snapchat Nov. 7.

Snapchat is a popular photo or video messaging application that deletes communications after a short period of time.

According to the incident report, a female student reported that a 19-year-old male sent her a photo at approximately 2:30 a.m. over the application that she described as a gun. The photo included a short message saying “Don’t come to school today.” The girl stated that she was unable to see the male’s face in the photo but she was certain it was him.

West Branch-Rose City Superintendent Phil Mikulski said the investigation into the matter began around 8 a.m. with the district first the MSP, and then holding a staff meeting to inform the staff that there was a potential situation that the state police had become involved in.

The troopers made contact with the male suspect and were advised that he was mimicking memes or satirical photos that circulate online with people taking photos with Nerf guns or other toy guns containing a similar threat. The man admitted that he sent the snap with a price gun that he saw lying on a shelf at a retail store. The man stated that he was only trying to be funny and had no intention of harming anyone.

The report states that troopers advised the male that any comments like that are taken seriously and are not a joking matter.

“With Snapchat, the snaps get sent and are available only for a limited amount of time,” Trooper Shane Noble said. “If I could have seen the snap the investigation would have been over sooner.”

The district notified parents of the unfounded threat via a prerecorded message from Surline Middle School Principal Wendy Tuttle at approximately 5 p.m.

Mikulski said the situation didn't warrant immediate notification because there was no evidence of the threat. The threat was based on allegations and first the district had to investigate the legitimacy of the threat before notifying parents.

“In my conversations with Mrs. Tuttle, it seems the staff handled the situation very well,” Mikulski said. “Our staff is always looking to be sure that our students’ safety is our number one priority.”

Noble said if the school had received a substantiated threat parents and the community would have been notified immediately.

Updated: Nov. 9 at 7:09 a.m. with correct information.


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