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Police presence greets Lewis and Clark High School students after Instagram threat

UPDATED: Mon., Nov. 5, 2018

A heavy police presence greeted students at Lewis and Clark High School on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (Jim  Allen / The Spokesman-Review)
A heavy police presence greeted students at Lewis and Clark High School on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. (Jim Allen / The Spokesman-Review)

Gavin Stephenson has been through this drill before.

On Monday morning, the Lewis and Clark High School senior was sitting in front of the building where classes were about to begin amid an ongoing investigation into a social media threat made during the weekend.

“It’s a little scary, but I need to be here to graduate,” Stephenson said.

A beefed-up police presence did little to cut the tension at LC, which endured the same kind of uncertainty during a similar investigation last spring.

“I’m pretty nervous,” Stephenson said.

The nervousness may continue indefinitely; as of Monday afternoon, Spokane police had not issued any arrest warrants.

The questions began Saturday night, when Spokane Public Schools received a threat against LC on Instagram.

On Sunday morning, the district sent a notice to parents about the threat while police investigated.

Since then, the district has worked with the Spokane Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit to assess the credibility of the threat and the perpetrator.

“The detectives have been working all weekend,” said Officer John O’Brien, a spokesman for the Spokane Police Department.

“We take all threats seriously. That’s why we have dedicated detectives to work throughout the weekend to bring resolution to this.”

As of Monday morning, police had not announced progress in the investigation.

“It’s unsettling to send our kid to school, because we don’t have very much information, if any, about the status of the investigation,” said Monica Holland, who dropped their freshman daughter off at the school instead of letting her ride the bus.

Holland would have preferred to keep her home, “but she very much wanted to come to school, and that was a battle,” she said.

LC reported 469 absences, slightly more double the number for a typical Monday.

Other parents have asked for more information.

However, Brian Coddington, the district’s communications and community relations director, said that schools are “also mindful that following up when there is nothing new can create additional anxiety, fear, and frustration during an already stressful time for students and staff.”

“Finding the right frequency can be difficult and we will continue to try determine the best timing to make sure families and staff have the information they need as quickly as we can provide it,” Coddington said.

Responding to a parent on Facebook, Spokane Public Schools replied on Sunday night: “we’re doing the best we can to let the community know what’s happening. The investigation is ongoing and, as such, there’s just not a lot we can say at this time.”

The police department also urged parents to be patient.

“We’ve just got to see how this plays out,” O’Brien said. They’ve worked on it all weekend. There’s good resources keeping the students and staff safe today. We hope for a quick resolution.”

The latest threat was made on the Instagram account Steven_Smith__4, and included the names of several female students and an apology for what may happen to the school in November.

The account wrote that “I still cant (sic) believe that I did not get caught yet,” and claimed an Asian or Latino student had been mistakenly arrested for last school year’s threats.

The account is still active, but the post has been taken down.

In its alert notice, the SPS said that additional police officers and SPS resource officers would be at the school Monday “to ensure students and staff can attend school safely and uninterrupted.”

Former Lewis and Clark High School student Ryan Lee, who is Asian American, was arrested and charged last year in connection with threats posted to an Instagram account with an almost identical name.

Staff reporter Jonathan Glover contributed to this report.

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