BEND, Ore. – Bend police plan an increased presence Monday at Cascade Middle School due to a widely disseminated chat exchange involving a video game user who urged a student to skip school Monday — and when asked why, replied, “Bang“ — but later claimed it was a joke, a school official said.
In a letter emailed to parents Sunday evening, Cascade Principal Stephen DuVal related the details of what occurred and the concern that spread virally on Facebook earlier in the day, prompting some parents to say they won’t allow their children to attend school Monday due to the threat.
DuVal said the online exchange occurred in a chat on an Xbox gaming system with a person known only by their “gamertag,“ their “alter ego in the Xbox world.“
On a widely shared image, one gamer said to another, “Don’t go to school Monday.“ The other person asked why, adding, “Do u even know my school,“ The other chat participant stated Cascade Middle School. When asked, “Why can’t we go to school?“ the reply was simply, “Bang.“
The identity of the gamer is being investigated by police, DuVal said, adding that schools “will support prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for the disruption that this will likely cause to our learning environment.“
Bend Police Corporal Jeff Frickey told NewsChannel 21 on Sunday night that he couldn’t say whether the gamer who made the apparent threat had been identified, only that the investigation was still continuing.
It was the third serious safety concern to arise at Central Oregon schools in less than a week.
On Wednesday, Redmond’s Elton Gregory Middle School was placed under lockdown for about 15 minutes, until police detained a student who was using a knife to carve into a wall and bench.
On Thursday, a 21-year-old Bend man was arrested at his home and a shotgun seized after a threat to harm students and staff at Bend Senior High School was posted on the social media website MeetMe, police said.
Here is the full text of the email DuVal sent to families.
“Dear Cascade families,
“Our partners at the Bend Police Department are currently investigating the report of a threatening statement made to a youth during an online gaming text exchange this weekend. Bend Police say the youth was engaged in a chat on a home gaming system with a person only known by a gamertag*. During the exchange, the gamer told the youth not to go to school on Monday. According to those involved, the gamer later claimed to be making a joke.
“We, and our law enforcement partners, take all threats to our staff and students’ safety seriously. The identity of the suspect gamer is currently being investigated by law enforcement teams, and we will support prosecution to the fullest extent of the law for the disruption that this will likely cause to our learning environment.
“It is our understanding that screenshots of the exchange have been circulating around student and parent social media accounts this afternoon. Many of our students may be talking about this by the time school begins tomorrow morning. I thought that a quick email to you tonight to share what I know would help you to answer any questions that your student(s) may have for you and to calm any fears that they may have regarding this situation and the ensuing rumors going around.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we will be taking steps to increase security and the safety of our students and staff through added police presence on and around our campus. We believe that our school is safe for all students and staff. We also understand that by informing you of this threat we run the risk of giving the person who made the threat the attention they seek or other students copying this behavior.
“I greatly appreciate our students and parents having open lines of communication with our staff and law enforcement regarding rumors that they are hearing. The safety of our students and staff is paramount and any and all threats, credible or not, are taken as such.
“That said, I always encourage our students and parents to contact the main office, share tips through Safe Oregon, or call 9-1-1 at any time to share information about threats to their safety or the safety of their school.
“Thank you for your continued support.
Cascade Middle School
“*According to Microsoft, “A gamertag is your alter ego in the Xbox world. It’s made from an alias, an optional avatar or picture (called a gamerpic), and a bit of info to represent you when you’re playing games and sharing with other people in the Xbox community.”