Aspen, Roaring Fork school threats thought to be spam; lockouts lifted

Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Roaring Fork School District officials Thursday afternoon lifted a “lockout” on middle and elementary schools after authorities determined that an online threat that also led to high schools being closed for the day was likely spam.

“We have been in communication with local and federal law enforcement agencies and reassured that there is no longer a credible threat to our students or schools,” the school district said in a news release at about 1:30 p.m. Thursday. “We have since learned that similar threats have been received throughout the country.”

High schools were closed for the day in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt after the FBI informed Carbondale police of an anonymous threat of violence against a high school made in an online forum.

Kelsy Been, public information officer for the district, said middle and elementary schools were placed on lockout while the police investigated. A lockout means that all doors are locked, staff is on high alert and additional law enforcement are at the schools.

Aspen schools remained open for classes, but also were on lockout after receiving word of the threat.

The afternoon release quoted Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling as saying that updated information from the FBI indicated that threat appeared to have been the result of a spam email.

“These emails have been received all over the United States,” Schilling said. “We learned today that neighboring school districts received almost identical threats: other school districts have recently received similar threats.”

It was unclear where else threats had been reported.

Schilling said this was the first time Carbondale police had gotten such a warning from the FBI. He said he thought the tip originated from an FBI anti-terrorism hotline.

Initial reports said the threat was made against an unspecified high school, but the IP address of the computer used was from the Carbondale area, traced to an 18-year-old student.

The lockout occurred just as students and teachers were arriving for school, causing confusion for some parents dropping off students. Been did not say if school bus routes were reversed. Several parents picked up their children from lower-grade schools after the threat was publicized.

“We wanted to be cautious and err on the side of safety for our students and staff,” Been said.

In Aspen, local law enforcement contacted the Aspen School District at approximately 7:45 a.m. about a “threat to schools in the ‘81611’ ZIP code,” according to an email sent from the superintendent’s office to parents and students.

The Roaring Fork schools lifted lockout restrictions early in the afternoon. High schools remained closed Thursday, with all classes set to resume as normal Friday.

Transportation resumed its regular schedule Thursday afternoon. Each school will make decisions regarding after-school sports and activities and was to communicate with  parents and students.

“We always take all threats seriously until we can investigate them thoroughly,” RFSD said in its afternoon news release. “We will continue to assess the credibility of any threat in cooperation with law enforcement agencies and exercise extreme caution in keeping your children safe.

“We want to thank our teachers and staff members who have done an incredible job of keeping our schools calm and reassuring their students. We will continue to offer support throughout the week and address any signs of concern that arise.