UPDATE: Credible threat closes Bemidji schools as BCA reports unrelated statewide swatting incidents
The threat, according to Superintendent Jeremy Olson, was reported to the district by law enforcement around 9:45 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 5. Numerous schools and Jewish facilities across the state were targeted with a separate swatting hoax.
BEMIDJI — Students in Bemidji area schools learned from home Wednesday, Dec. 6, in response to a credible threat of violence against a district building and staff member.
The threats came Tuesday night via several text-to-911 incidents.
The Bemidji Police Department stated after an extensive search, officers arrested a juvenile male on suspicion of terroristic threats.
Meanwhile, authorities investigated multiple emailed bombing and shooting threats made Wednesday in a series of swatting incidents across the state, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported. This included the Brainerd School District, among at least 24 other schools and nine Jewish centers.
None have turned out to be real, and the BCA confirmed to KAXE the incident in Bemidji was separate and unrelated.
Bemidji investigators determined where the text-based threats originated and traced the phone number to a Bemidji residence, according to police.
"Without extensive pre-planning, collaboration and partnership with Bemidji Area Schools and the Bemidji Police Department, communication and safety decisions would likely have been greatly delayed," stated Capt. David LaZella in a news release.
"Bemidji Police Officers and Detectives worked extensively throughout the night and into the early morning hours to ensure the safety of students and staff members of all Bemidji Schools."
District 31 in Bemidji switched to an e-learning day, with area charter schools also closing in-person classes.
Bemidji Superintendent Jeremy Olson said while the e-learning day plan was established in case of weather events, not school safety, he felt it was important to offer that connection to students.
"When you're in a situation where people are escalated or frightened, I think it's really important — that the support of the adults and teachers and the connection with the students ... to make sure that we provide the very best that we can for our students, even as we're not able to be physically present with them," Olson said.
Olson commended the collaborative work of the Bemidji Police Department and Beltrami County Sheriff's Office to ensure school safety, such as reunification plans, de-escalation techniques and others.
"Those relationships are built as you go through and work on those projects together, that I think is the key here," he said. "We understand and trust the decision-making abilities of each other."