YARMOUTH, Maine — Yarmouth and Falmouth schools were closed on Friday due to online threats. Superintendents for the two districts announced the closures Friday morning.
In an email Friday morning, Falmouth Superintendent Gretchen McNulty said Falmouth Police Chief John Kilbride informed her that an online threat had been made against Falmouth schools. She said she made the decision to close the schools Friday out of an abundance of caution.
McNulty said police responded to the campuses for support.
Falmouth police said later Friday that after working with area police departments, Maine State Police and the FBI, they believe the threat was a hoax.
District leadership said police received the threat as Falmouth Middle School and High School were arriving and starting their day.
"The timing of the threat, when students and staff were in transit and just beginning to arrive in our schools, presented an array of challenges which our school administrators and staff successfully negotiated. Our students and staff are to be commended for their calm and helpfulness. I cannot thank our parents, families and caregivers enough for their cooperation and patience as we worked to return students safely home today," Superintendent McNulty sent to parents in a notice Friday afternoon.
"We recognize the strain and fear this causes for our students, school staff, and community," Kilbride said in a release. "Their support and cooperation during this event were greatly appreciated. We will continue our vigilance and strong communication with school administrative staff during these challenging times."
An announcement Friday on the Yarmouth School Department website said schools were closed "due to a report of an on-line threat against our schools being made known the Yarmouth Police Department. This will be a traditional no-school day. More information to come later."
Yarmouth Superintendent Andrew Dolloff told NEWS CENTER Maine that a young man called Yarmouth police at 4:30 a.m., saying he had seen a post on Snapchat, threatening to shoot several students. The school investigated the names mentioned, and determined those did not match any current or former students or staff. However, due to the generalized nature of the threat, the superintendent decided to close all K-12 schools Friday.
Dolloff said officials determined the threat to be the same that other schools in the area received in recent days, and it appeared to originate overseas.
"The safety of our students and staff members is paramount for us each day, so we act with an abundance of caution when responding to deviant behavior like this," he said in an email. "I'm hopeful that law enforcement will be able to identify the individual responsible for the call, and once they do, we will push for prosecution to the fullest extent possible," Dolloff wrote in an e-mail.
"Acts like this create a great deal of anxiety for students, staff, and their families, place undue stress on people whose daily routines are thrown off-balance, create the need for schools and communities to direct resources away from normal activities, and disrupt learning for students," Dolloff continued. "There's a price to all of those things, some of which cannot be repaid, and I'll feel a lot better when the perpetrator has been apprehended."
The threats in Yarmouth and Falmouth are different from the active shooter hoax calls that schools across Maine received on Tuesday. The Maine Department of Public Safety said it was aware of multiple active shooter threats against schools throughout the state, prompting schools across the state to go into lockdown on Tuesday. Those reports were believed to be a hoax, agency spokesperson Shannon Moss said in a release.
Schools in Windham and South Portland moved to virtual learning on Wednesday due to threats, and students at Mattanawcook Jr. High School in Lincoln were dismissed Thursday morning after administration was alerted of a potential threat.