Parents and educators of Marion County experienced a surreal moment on Thursday, April 7, when an event that many thought would never happen in the small county became a reality.
Shortly before 7 a.m., many parents received notice—either through school notification systems or on social media—that schools throughout the county were canceled on Thursday due to information received from the police departments and a Kansas Bureau of Investigation call center that a threat had been made against Marion County schools.
Marion and Peabody-Burns gave vague information, stating that school would be canceled for the day, while Hillsboro mentioned that there had been a threat made. Kids Connection, a daycare in Hillsboro, also closed, while Tabor College chose to remain open. The schools reported that decisions about activities would be made later, and all canceled activities for the day by mid-morning.
Centre USD-397 posted more information on their social media.
They said, “A threat was called into the KBI in Kansas City this morning that someone was going to shoot up a school in Marion County. All schools in Marion County decided to cancel school today out of precaution.”
Centre also canceled all activities for the day.
However, Goessel made the decision to continue with school. An email was sent out to parents early that morning.
It said, “Information regarding a vague threat was received early this morning, intended for Marion County schools. The message originated from Missouri, and we believe it is not credible. School is still in session for today.”
Some Goessel parents opted to go to the school and remove their children after learning that all of the other schools in the county were closed as a precaution. This caused Superintendent Mark Crawford to send out a follow-up message later in the morning, saying that while his decision was not popular, he felt school is “where we need to be” based on the information he had been given.
The information came from the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, which reported that the call came into the Kansas City, Mo., Kansas Bureau of Investigation Intelligence Center at around 12:30 a.m. on Thursday morning. The call stated a “possible threat to an unknown individual in a Marion County School District of an unknown state.”
While there are 17 Marion Counties in the United States, including one in Missouri, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with all local law enforcement agencies in Marion County, acted upon the provided information by distributing it to local school districts in an effort to ensure the safety of staff and students. They made the decision due to the proximity of where the call was received.
Law enforcement continued to monitor the empty school districts, while Goessel brought in police and state troopers to patrol school halls.
“Additional police presence should be expected in and around the schools in Hillsboro the next several days,” said Hillsboro Chief of Police Jessey Hiebert.
While law enforcement and school administration for the closed schools all realized the threat may not have even been to Marion County, Kan., many said they would rather err on the side of caution.
USD-410 Superintendent Max, Heinrichs said, “People’s safety is the most important thing. It was a tough decision, but those people’s safety is the most important thing there is.”
The rest of the day was uneventful as police and administrators monitored the situation and the decision was made for school to resume as normal on Friday.