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Rockford threats cost $131,000; local student and Mass. suspect charged

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - The Kent County Sheriff and Rockford Public Schools formally announced the arrest of two people in a series of bomb threats that shook the Rockford school community over the last year.

More than 20 threats were called in targeting the school, specific students and staff.  One Rockford student, 16, has been charged with a false report or threat of terrorism and another co-conspirator in Wilmington, Massachusetts has also been charged. This is a 20-year felony if the student were charged as an adult, however court officials said the 16-year-old is charged as a juvenile.

The Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young says that over 2,500 hours of investigation went into identifying the suspects.  They will seek $100,000 in restitution, along with criminal charges.

“This is a day and age of limited resources, both from the school system, for public safety, and lots and lots of valuable tax dollars went into feeding the irresponsible activity of a few kids," said Kent County Sheriff Lawrence Stelma. "Parents need to be aware of that.”

Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Shibler commended the law enforcement community in their collaboration in the investigation and also the resiliency of the students and parents during the threats.  The schools are also seeking $31,000 in restitution versus the suspects.

The Rockford student was suspended on May 18 and Dr. Shibler is recommending his expulsion from Rockford Public Schools.  He does not have any prior criminal record or disciplinary records at the school.  The second suspect was found using "open source searching" was found in Wilmington, Mass.

“We know now through law enforcement and through what we’ve done to support law enforcement that we in fact will be able to move quicker to identify who these people might be," said Dr. Michael Schibler, Rockford Public Schools superintendent.

"I think this should send a strong message to those who might want to carry out surreptitious threats that in fact they’re going to be found and we will deal with them to the full extent of the law," he said.

The suspects will first go through juvenile court, but decisions could be made in the courts to try them as adults. However, court officials believe the Rockford student will be charged as a juvenile.  Officials said that Rockford students were never in any real danger.

Kent County officials say that this experience is a good reminder to parents to know what their kids are doing online.  These threats originated in online gaming sites.

“Watch where your students are playing online gaming, make sure that they don’t have exclusive privacy doing that, it needs to be a public place, you need to be aware of it," said Kent County Undersheriff Michelle Young.

Dr. Schibler said they have made policy change: students can no longer wear backpacks to class. Then, they plan to add more security cameras and rebuild safer entrances to all district buildings.

“We’re spending $11 million out of a $76 million bond issue to rebuild our entrance ways into all of our buildings, our vestibules, to basically make sure people that people who want to come into our buildings to cause harm will not get into our buildings," Dr. Schibler said.

We'll have more throughout the day on Fox 17 online and on-air.

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1 Comment

  • George

    Want safe schools ? Trash the “gun free zone” ( criminal empowerment zone) and allow those who may LEGALLY carry firearms to do so.
    Every “mass shooting” with the exception of one was committed at a so called “gun free zone”.
    That’s like a huge sign that says “WE CAN’T PROTECT OUR SELF’S”
    Do I want guns in schools..YES protect the children.