Lincolnview and Crestview personnel gather at the Sheriff Department in April with officer Mike Biberstine (right) Sheriff Tom Riggenbach (center) and officer John Gabriel (left). The schools partnered with the department in April to have full-time School Resource Officers. (DHI Media/ File Photo/ Kirsten Barnhart)
Lincolnview and Crestview personnel gather at the Sheriff Department in April with officer Mike Biberstine (right) Sheriff Tom Riggenbach (center) and officer John Gabriel (left). The schools partnered with the department in April to have full-time School Resource Officers. (DHI Media/ File Photo/ Kirsten Barnhart)

VAN WERT – On Feb. 22, 2018, the topic of school threats hit close to home with local law enforcement investigating a post made against Van Wert City Schools on social media and a threat made against students at Crestview Local Schools on social media.

A user, only known as “unknown.vw”, posted a threat on Instagram stating “Vw this is my only warning. This month your school will be disrupted, i will not feel pitty (sic) for what i am soon to do.”

In light of the situation, VWCS canceled classes and Crestview delayed three hours, but both schools asked staff to come in to discuss the situation.

Van Wert City Police conducted an immediate investigation of the threats, and by the time noon hit, they announced that an unnamed Van Wert City Schools student was charged with a second-degree felony of inducing panic involving a school and a fourth-degree felony of telecommunications harassment.

While the investigation at Van Wert was going on, the Van Wert County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio State Highway Patrol decided to post deputies at Crestview Local Schools, Lincolnview Local Schools, and Vantage Career Center for safety.

When the decision to start the school day after the three-hour delay was made by Crestview, law enforcement and staff were not aware of any threat toward Crestview, said then-Superintendent Mike Estes in a press release in February.

Later in the day, however, an Instagram post was discovered which made threats to specific students at Crestview.

Around midnight on Feb. 22, Sheriff Tom Riggenbach announced that a Crestview Local Schools student had been arrested and charged with two counts of inducing panic, a felony of the second degree, and one count of telecommunications harassment, a misdemeanor of the first degree.

Van Wert County Prosecutor Eva Yarger also released a statement during the day, asking for those with information to come forward.

“Because of the events that have occurred in this community as well as other communities, the Office of the Van Wert County Prosecuting Attorney wishes to commend all individuals associated with this effort and to assure the citizens of Van Wert and Van Wert County that acts of this kind or nature will be the subject of immediate prosecution to the fullest extent provided by law,” said Yarger in a Feb. 22 release. “On behalf of this Office and all law enforcement agencies, we would ask that if anyone has information concerning these events or are aware of any possible threats that these be reported immediately.”

While school violence continued to make headlines throughout the year around the nation, scares of threats largely died down in Van Wert. However, local schools began to look at security and other measures to keep their students and staff safe.

Van Wert Superintendent Vicki Brunn announced that the school was looking into a text alert system recently, and Van Wert Assistant to the Superintendent Bill Clifton reported at recent School Board meetings that there has been an increased police presence at bus stops and the schools. Clifton also reported at the December Board of Education meeting that the school has made changes on how people enter several of the buildings and that the district has found a way for teachers to secure their doors without leaving the classroom in case of an emergency.

In April, Lincolnview and Crestview announced that they were partnering with the Van Wert County Sheriff Department to equip themselves with a full-time School Resource Officer. Both Crestview and Lincolnview agreed to pay for their officers, who cost between $40,000 to $50,000 for a full school year.

“I think it’s been a good thing for the schools, the communities, and the Sheriff’s Office – the relationship building piece that is involved and being able to do that is very valuable,” said Riggenbach in an April 7 interview with The Times Bulletin. “We’re really excited that both school districts are giving us the opportunity to be there five days a week. We’re excited about moving forward and the opportunities that lay ahead.”

Van Wert, Crestview, Lincolnview and Vantage have all taken steps since the beginning of the year to have safer, and securer schools – something each school is very likely to continue to talk about in 2019.