Police investigate 3 threats at Woonsocket schools; 2 students arrested

Blackstone Valley

NOTE: This story was updated after police clarified that one of the arrests took place at the Founders Academy at Beacon.

WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Two students were arrested Friday afternoon in connection with threats at three different schools within the district.

Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Oates said the first occurred at the Founders Academy at Beacon, where a 12-year-old student reportedly made threatening comments.

That student was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct.

Oates said the second threat was reported at Villanova Middle School, where another 12-year-old student posted a threat on social media.

While officers weren’t able to find the post, they did locate a knife in the boy’s backpack, according to Oates.

The student was arrested and charged with possession of a prohibited weapon on school grounds.

The last threat prompted a brief lockdown at Woonsocket High School. Oates said someone overheard that a student in the construction program had a firearm, though no weapons were found during their sweep of the classroom.

Oates said the lockdown was initiated after officers noticed five people were missing from the construction program.

During the lockdown, officers searched the entire school building room-by-room for any threats. Oates said the officers didn’t find anything, and detectives were able to locate three of those five missing students.

Oates believes those students left school early that day, which explains why they weren’t in class.

The threats were investigated on a day where school districts across the country were already on high alert as a number of posts calling for acts of violence made their rounds on social media.

An anonymous post on TikTok, which has since spawned hundreds of copycat posts, labeled Dec. 17 as “National Shoot Up Your School Day” and warned students to stay home.

The social media platform said it’s working with law enforcement to investigate the source of the post.

School districts across Southern New England were among the many nationwide that stepped up their security measures Friday as a precaution, including Westport, Fall River, North Kingstown and Lincoln.

Many parents, like Woonsocket resident Amber Densmore, decided to keep their children home Friday after learning of the potential threats.

“We heard as parents that there shouldn’t be any [reason to] worry,” Densmore said. “But when a child gets handcuffed and taken out of school … that is something to worry [about].”

Densmore said she hopes the district will invest in additional safety measures to keep students safe, such as metal detectors.

“I can walk through a school with just an ID,” Densmore said. “We might have to have more precautions … it’s sad, but today’s world is a lot different than it was before.”

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