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Ferndale Police and School District investigating threatening online posts

The Ferndale School District in a Facebook post Thursday said it and the Ferndale Police Department are investigating two online communications that have raised concerns.
The Ferndale School District in a Facebook post Thursday said it and the Ferndale Police Department are investigating two online communications that have raised concerns. eabell@bellinghamherald.com

The Ferndale School District in a Facebook post Thursday said it and the Ferndale Police Department are investigating two online communications that have raised concerns. While one of the threats was found to be a “hoax,” the other still is being treated as “a credible threat,” according to Ferndale Schools Superintendent Linda Quinn.

Quinn said she was informed of that second threat Thursday morning, and it is still actively being investigated. It stemmed from a Snapchat conversation from an unidentified user that was shared with multiple Ferndale High School students – contained a statement that could be interpreted as a threat.

“It was not very specific, but we’re not dismissing it, yet,” Quinn said.

In response, Quinn said there was extra police presence on the high school campus, as well as extra administration, security and counseling support. The district also “distributed information to our staff throughout the day as the investigation proceeded.”

Ferndale Police Communications Officer Riley Sweeney said detectives were on campus Thursday “running down leads.”

“The Ferndale Police Department takes all threats serious, especially in this time of elevated tension,” Sweeney said. “We know this is really a time of concern for students and parents. We put the safety of everyone No. 1.”

Quinn said she was made aware of the other threat Wednesday evening, and it had been proven to be a hoax “before I went to bed last night.” The threat was investigated by Ferndale Police and other law enforcement agencies across the country and found to be fake and is related to a post by “Ray Andres” threatening a shooting at “SHS.”

Sweeney said that threat against “SHS” morphed into “FHS” in Ferndale’s online circles, causing the alarm.

“For the public at large, the best antiseptic to online rumors is checking with official sources,” Sweeney said. “Both the Ferndale Police Department and Ferndale School District have official sources they can check with. If something looks suspicious and doesn’t pass the smell check, go to those official sources.”

Quinn said high school parents were notified of both threat investigations in an email at about noon Thursday, and the school district posted a similar message on its Facebook page.

Quinn said she was very pleased with how the students, staff and administration worked together to handle both threats.

“The hoax message that came to me last night, came from a teacher that contacted the principal,” Quinn said. “That principal immediately contacted me and the police. I’m really proud of the way that staff and students took this seriously and are seeing themselves as part of the solution.”

Sweeney echoed those thoughts, saying “Here in Ferndale, we live in this great small town community – we’re not dealing with strangers here. We know each other and we share things. The first line of defense against online rumors and threats is each other. We do this old-time thing called talking to each other and working together.”

To that end, the school district invites students, parents and staff to share any concerns by calling or texting 360-383-5353, emailing 1150@alert1.us or going to its anonymous online portal at ferndale-wa.safeschoolsalert.com/.

“We welcome people to share,” Quinn said. “We always stay vigilant with our students’ safety, but we’re hyper-vigilant with everything going on now.”

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