A Vancouver Island high school student has been arrested for a social media post showing them firing a weapon into a small target with the caption “practicing for school.” Police recommended charges of uttering threats and mischief.
The male student at Stelly’s Secondary School in Victoria was arrested without incident on Monday, March 5 and released on a promise to appear and undertaking with several conditions.
Sgt. Andy Duke of Central Saanich Police said they are still investigating where and when the video was made. He said the video, which was posted to Instagram, was seen by Stelly’s students who brought it to the attention to the school, who then contacted the police.
Duke said these types of incidents are not common in the area, but there have been more reports to police following the recent Florida school shooting. He said at this time, there did not appear to be a connection to the lockdown at Bayside Middle School on March 1, when police spent four hours searching for a possible masked person with a weapon.
“People are much more perceptive of potential problems, so we’re being more aware of them,” said Duke.
Duke said the police are still determining whether there is any link between this Instagram post and some threatening graffiti also found in Stelly’s washrooms last week, which prompted principal Sally Hansen to circulate two letters to parents — one on March 1 and another on March 6.
On March 1, Hansen said school officials “do not believe there is any substance to the reported message at this time.” In that letter, Hansen wrote that staff had not seen the threatening message themselves, and student reports were not consistent, though they did involve Central Saanich Police at that time.
On March 6, Hansen wrote in an update that additional social media posts have “served to increase student anxiety, particularly around the date of March 8th.” Stelly’s will be open and operating as normal, but tests and due dates will not be assigned that day.
In an interview Tuesday, SD63 superintendent Dave Eberwein said while he could not comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, the school district has known about the concerns “for a couple of days, and have been working with police digging deeper into the post we found.” He said the district does not plan to significantly change its policies and procedures for the time being.
“I think the message that the parents and the community should take away from this is that we take things very seriously. Our primary purpose is to make sure we have safe places for everybody.”
For students that do require support for their academic, behaviour, or emotional support, Eberwein said there is “wraparound” care in the form of school and district counsellors, and they work with parents or the external community if other support is needed.
Updated on March 8, 2018 at 9:55 a.m. with comment from SD63 superintendent Dave Eberwein.
Correction: In an earlier version of this story, it was reported that a weapon was fired into a snowbank due to incorrect information from police. The weapon was actually fired at a small target.