COULEE REGION Wis. (WLAX/WEUX) – While most were found not to be credible, there’s a growing concern as to why so many school threats are happening in the Coulee Region. Monday marked the second time this school year that La Crosse Central High School canceled classes due to a threat. Superintendent Aaron Engel described both incidents as “pranks” but says that doesn’t mean they aren’t taken seriously.
“We collaborate with the police to assess the threat and determine whether or not it’s safe to continue school, or to have school at all,” said Engel.
It’s the third such incident in less than three months in La Crosse. Students and teachers at Logan High School were threatened via Snapchat in November.
“When kids see that this is effective in one place, it tends to happen more in other places,” said Engel.
There have also been threats at middle schools in Onalaska and Holmen this year, part of an increase being seen nationwide. Susan Whitstone with the Wisconsin Office of School Safety believes there are certain reasons for the uptick.
“The Oxford shooting in Michigan in November, what happens is there’s a copycat effect. I think something else that played a role in some of the increase in tips across the United States is the social media challenges,” said Whitstone.
Engel also cites the pandemic for taking a toll on the mental health of students. “Students have not had the same opportunities to find connection, to develop socially and emotionally.”
The district is working to increase mental health services, which are available for students if they reach out.
“Tell a teacher, tell a counselor, tell a principal, tell a TA…we’ll get you the help that we can find for you and ensure that you’re on the path to feeling better,” said Engel. The Office of School Safety also provides tip lines if students or teachers have any threat concerns. The Office of School Safety urges students who have any information about threats to utilize its “Speak Up, Speak Out” tip line.