‘It’s a creepy website’ police chief says about threat to North Canton school

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NORTH CANTON, Ohio -- There was an increased police presence at all North Canton City Schools after an anonymous shooting threat was made online against the middle school.

According to North Canton Police Department, the district received a tip through its safety hotline that a message was posted through Ask.fm, a web-based application that allows users to communicate anonymously.

messageThe message said someone was going to "shoot up" the North Canton Middle School on Thursday.

“Let’s just say it’s a creepy website,” said North Canton Police Chief Stephan Wilder. "Ask is now on our radar."

Superintendent Michael Hartenstein said school officials have been monitoring Ask.fm and other social sites for years, examining issues like cyber bullying.

Police interviewed the eighth-grade student who received the threat. The student posted an image of the threat on his Instagram account and did not notify police or his parents. Other students saw the photo and told their parents.

The North Canton Police Department requested the assistance of the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Homeland Security Office along with the FBI to investigate and find the source of the threat.

There was a "significant police presence" at all North Canton City Schools, including St. Paul's Holy Cross Academy, according to police. Wilder said during his time at the school, students were orderly and the staff was well-informed.

Officials said the threat went viral, and attendance at all schools is down Thursday. Attendance at the middle school was at about half and the student who received the threat stayed home. Those absences will be excused and middle school students were allowed to carry their cell phones in class on Thursday.

"When something like this happens, it goes across the community very quickly and it scares people, and that's understandable," Hartenstein said.

School officials also held an assembly to keep kids informed.

Police ask that all students, staff and teachers be forthcoming with information as to who may have sent the threat.

"If you see something, say something," Wilder said. "They may think they're protecting their friend, but they're not protecting anybody." The police chief said students are part of the solution.