‘I want you to know your schools are safe:’ Rockford supt. addresses recent threats in YouTube video

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ROCKFORD, Mich. -- Following multiple threats made against Rockford Public Schools since late October of 2014, the district's superintendent took to YouTube Thursday to address parents, students and staff about the ongoing investigation.

The nearly six and a half minute address from Supt. Mark Shibler posted to YouTube Thursday, and provided to students at the Freshman Center and Rockford High School, comes on the same day Shibler tells FOX 17 he met with numerous law enforcement agencies, including Michigan State Police, Kent County Sheriff's Department, Rockford police and even the FBI.

“There are assigned detectives from their organizations who are working on this on a regular basis," Shibler said in the video. "I want you to know this is something that doesn’t just happen and we move on to the next incident. We take these threats very seriously."

Shibler told FOX 17 he's felt it imperative to keep parents, students and staff informed of the progress and called Thursday's meeting with law enforcement "very productive."

“What is making this more complicated in the technology that’s involved, where a threat might be given through Skype or email that makes it really difficult to trace," Shibler said in his YouTube message.

"But we are tracing them. I want you to know your schools are safe.”

Of every district in Kent County, the only one with more security personnel than Rockford is Grand Rapids Public Schools, Shibler said in the video.

The YouTube update comes after the most recent threat made against the district's freshman campus Jan. 16. Just one day prior, nearly 2,000 high school students were forced to wait in the gym for more than two hours after a threat was phoned into the school involving a propane tank being placed in the building.

“It makes me frightened for my children and it’s scary," said Shelley Volkert, a parent of Rockford High School students.

"The world they have to grow up in today is not the same world we had to grow up in, and it makes me sad we even have to have these things happen.”

Volkert said the false alarms have begun to take a toll on her kids.

“I think it’s come to the point with this last one, it was frightening for them, they came home and slept for a couple hours," she said. "I think it’s mentally draining.”

While the threats have brought a feeling of uneasiness for parent Mike Richard, he said he at least appreciates the effort the district is making to keep parents informed.

"You know, I don’t expect them to snap their fingers and make it go away but just to know they’re doing something to work toward a resolution is really all we can ask for," Richard said.

The problem isn't unique to Rockford either. Several other Kent County schools have dealt with similar false threats in recent months.

In cooperation with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department and the Rockford Public Schools, the reward has been increased to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for making anonymous phone or email threats to the Rockford Public Schools.

Anyone with information about this crime is encouraged to call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345 or go to www.silentobserver.org  for more information.

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