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Mat-Su high school cancels assembly after ‘unsubstantiated rumors’ about shooting threat

PALMER — Colony High School canceled a pep rally Friday rather than take the chance that rumors of a shooting threat were real.

Administrators canceled the morning assembly when they couldn't disprove "escalating" threat rumors circulating on social media, Mat-Su Borough School District spokeswoman Jillian Morrissey said.

"There was just enough rumor and they couldn't find the source and they couldn't isolate it," Morrissey said. "They canceled it just to be sure."

Colony High was still deciding whether to hold a dance Saturday night, she said. "They're just trying to put everything in the puzzle right now. And tension is high. People are scared."

The school, one of the three large high schools in Mat-Su, is located between Palmer and Wasilla and has more than 1,100 students.

Colony High sent a text message to parents around 11 a.m. saying, "Today's pep assembly has been canceled due to unsubstantiated rumors. School will still dismiss at 2:15 p.m."

Parents took to social media, some angry at the school for not telling them more about the threat and others frustrated that parents chose to go on Facebook to spread more rumors rather than calling the school directly.

Morrissey said she'd heard 17 separate rumors by Friday afternoon.

One rumor described someone threatening to "shoot up" the assembly, according to several Facebook posts. Another said a student had a gun in their car and was arrested.

Alaska State Troopers did not go to Colony High on Friday, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. The agency has law enforcement jurisdiction in the area.

School officials did call troopers Friday and the principal met with troopers off campus, Peters said. She declined to say what the contact was about but said the principal turned over some items a student left behind when they left campus.

Troopers did respond to Houston High School Wednesday, however, after a student was overheard making a potential threat in the hallway but found no viable danger, Peters said earlier in the week.

The incident comes shortly after the Feb. 14 school shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people died.

The community "has heightened concern in light of the recent school violence that occurred in Florida," Mat-Su schools superintendent Monica Goyette wrote in a school safety position statement for Friday's edition of the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. "We want to assure our community that MSBSD leadership will be communicating directly with families through our mass notification system if a school is affected by a perceived or potential threat."

Goyette encouraged students to report "any potential signs of a threat" to a parent or adult at school.

Parents concerned about rumors of school threats should call the front office, Morrissey said.

The district is reviewing prevention and preparedness practices and will provide the school board with a report on April 4.

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