STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) – Extra police officers were at Strongsville High School Thursday after unsubstantiated rumors about a potential threat to the school circulated following an increase in incidents of student misconduct.
Strongsville Police said reports of a threat against the school were not credible, and the school’s principal pointed to the impact of social media in the spread of false information.
“Unfortunately, we live in an era when information is disseminated and it’s not always accurate,” Strongsville High School Principal Bill Wingler said.
As a precaution, Wingler said additional Strongsville police officers were at the school Thursday and school staff monitored every entrance and hallways.
“There have been no threats made to Strongsville High School,” Wingler said. “There have been no threats we can substantiate verbally from a person, we can’t substantiate them online.”
Wingler said he filled nearly 200 emails from concerned parents Wednesday, and he estimated about 10 to 15% of parents chose to keep their children home from school Thursday due to the rumors.
“What’s happening is fear is feeding, along with social media, into these rumors and gossip going around the building that simply aren’t true,” he said.
Separately, the school has also dealt with a series of incidents of student misconduct this week, according to Wingler.
He said two students were disciplined for a fight at the school Wednesday, and another student was disciplined for the apparent accidental discharge of pepper spray in an empty hallway Tuesday. That incident led to the evacuation of the building and relocation of several classes.
The school is also one of many in the region combatting vandalism and theft stemming from the “devious licks” challenge on TikTok.
The criminal craze involves students stealing items from schools, then posting the videos on social media.
Wingler said several Strongsville High School freshmen have stolen bathroom hardware, such as faucets with hand sensors and soap dispensers, resulting in thousands of dollars in damage.
Rocky River Police reported similar incidents this week at Rocky River High School and Middle School.
“You’re talking about monetary damage to a school,” Wingler said. “Not just as a principal, but as a taxpayer, we pay for that.”
Strongsville High School restricted the use of backpacks Thursday and Friday, requiring that they be kept in lockers during the day to prevent students from carrying tools such as screwdrivers to commit the thefts.
Wingler said five freshmen were facing school discipline for thefts and damage related to the Tik Tok challenge. No students were facing criminal citations for incidents in the school in recent days.
Wingler said the families of those responsible for the bathroom damage will be charged for the cost of repairs.
“I do believe we’re at the end of this, but I know schools around the area are dealing with this,” Wingler said.
Read the full statement from Principal Wingler below:
Good evening Strongsville students, parents, and community members,
There have been quite a few rumors that have spread through the school and now through our community. The worst of which are that student safety is being threatened.
These rumors are not based on any credible evidence and have been fueled by social media and verbal spreading of rumors. Here at SHS we take the safety of our students with the utmost importance and the disruptions to the learning environment are unacceptable. As a response: 1. There will be a strong police presence around and inside the building for the remainder of the week. 2. Additional adult monitors are being stationed at entrances/exits around the building throughout the day with walkie-talkies. 3.Students will not be free to roam our hallways. 4. The doors in the building will not be opened until after 6:50.A.M and all doors will be watched by an adult.
Some parents have reached out to me worried on whether or not to send their children to school the rest of this week. While every family has to make decisions that are best for them, I will be sending my own two daughters to the school this week as I truly believe that our school is safe and I personally refuse to allow these rumors to deprive my own kids of their right to a safe school.
Additionally students are being asked to put their backpacks in their lockers. This is a response to the fact that students are bringing in tools to remove items from the bathrooms. The backpack situation is temporary until we can get a handle on this tic tok issue and may be changed back quickly. Students who have a medical need will be allowed to carry their backpacks. I am aware that we have students with casts, crutches, or legitimate medical issues and we don’t want them being punished. Girls are permitted to carry small purses and students may also carry their Chromebook cases.
Strongsville High School is an amazing school with over 1900 students who do amazing things. It is sad that the actions of a handful of students has created so much of a disruption to a learning environment that consistently displays excellence. This situation will be fixed and we will ensure that every person who is inside this building is safe and secure at all times. Any student caught making any threats, including virtual, to our school will not only be expelled but will be subject to police prosecution.