Classes canceled at Richfield secondary schools because of online threats

The entrance to Richfield's high school
The entrance to Richfield High School is seen after classes were canceled on Monday. District officials closed Richfield secondary schools to students after receiving online threats. Gunfire wounded two people outside Richfield High School’s homecoming football game on Friday night.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

Updated: 8:32 a.m.

Secondary schools in the Richfield school district were closed Monday, after school officials said they were the subject of “online threats.”

The threats came after gunfire wounded two people outside Richfield High School’s homecoming football game on Friday night. Two teens — one a current Richfield student, another a former student — were arrested in connection with the shooting.

“We are aware that this is an unsettling message to receive. We are grateful to the Richfield community for your support and to the individuals who reported the threats to us,” Superintendent Steven Unowsky said in a notice posted to the school district’s website. “While we had hoped to see students today to offer support, connection and learning, we are making this decision with student and staff safety in mind.”

The affected schools include Richfield Middle School, Richfield High School, the Richfield College Experience Program and the Richfield program that’s housed at the South Education Center. (Other programs housed at South Education Center remained open Monday.)

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“While we have been partnering with police to investigate the credibility of the threats, due to the timing and the recent events outside our homecoming game, we have made the decision to close our secondary schools today,” Unowsky said in the statement. School officials did not offer further details on the nature of the threats.

Elementary schools in the Richfield district will remain open and will have additional staff on site from the district office, along with patrols throughout the day from Richfield Police Department, according to school officials.

“If families choose to keep their elementary students home for the day, it will be an excused absence if they follow their school’s absence reporting procedures,” Unowsky said.

The threats come as authorities have been weighing charges against the two suspects in connection Friday night’s shooting outside the high school football game. The gunfire injured two people, shut down the game and sent fans and players scrambling for safety.

The district also said there had been reports of threats of fights before that football game against Bloomington Kennedy, but that they had been investigated and were not found to be credible — although security had been stepped up at the stadium.

“This rumor circulates whenever these two teams play, which is why we did not notify the community about the threat,” the district reported.

The district said additional counseling services in the wake of the shooting will remain available to secondary students on Monday via phone and online.

The online threats that prompted the cancellation of classes in Richfield on Monday came less than a week after a flurry of hoax calls about school shootings prompted lockdowns and law enforcement response in communities across Minnesota. There was no immediate word of any connection between the two.

Last week’s hoax calls are being investigated by state officials, who said they were reported in other states, too.