Fear of attack on Missouri caller closes most schools
Classes and activities for all county school districts resumed as usual Friday after four out of five districts closed Thursday out of fear someone would bring a gun to school.
A Kansas City, Missouri, caller’s fear that he might be shot at a school in a county named Marion — not necessarily in Kansas — caused cancellation Thursday of classes and activities in all Marion County, Kansas, schools except Goessel, where superintendent Mark Crawford defended his decision to keep schools open.
Classes in two main school districts in Marion County, Missouri, near Hannibal on the eastern edge of the state, also continued as usual.
Marion, Centre, and Peabody-Burns schools posted cancellation notifications online early Thursday. Hillsboro did not initially post a notice online but sent a message to parents. Goessel parents were notified that classes there would continue despite the report.
Only Centre disclosed on its website that the closure was related to what it reported as a threat. Marion posted only that classes would be canceled. Peabody-Burns merely listed specific activities that were canceled.
An initial email sent to Goessel parents Thursday morning stated:
“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. As always, if you see something, say something. School is still in session today.”
After TV and social media reports of cancellations in other county districts prompted several parents to take students out of school in Goessel, Crawford issued a follow-up message at 10 a.m.
“Crazy threats are sadly part of our world today,” he said. “My decision will not always be popular; however, based on what I know, school is where we need to be.”
He encouraged kids to be courteous toward police and state troopers brought in as a precaution to patrol school halls.
Hillsboro superintendent Max Heinrichs said he was notified of the situation by another superidentent before police called.
“We met by phone and were discussing options — what we knew, what he had, what the actual facts were, what we had to actually work on,” Heinrichs said. “Buses were waiting because we would not let them go.”
After he got off the phone, Heinrichs stopped buses from picking up kids and put out a message to parents.
“People’s safety is the most important thing,” he said later. “It was a tough decision, but those people’s safety is the most important thing there is.”
Heinrichs declined to specify the nature of the threat, saying he had been told not to. However, Hillsboro's assistant police chief, Randy Brazil, confirmed that it involved a report received by law enforcement in Kansas City, Missouri, that a student was planning to bring a gun to school in a county named Marion, though not necessarily Marion County, Kansas.
Contacted by the Record, Ryan Lawzano, a sheriff’s detective in Marion County, Missouri, said Kansas City police also had notified the Missouri highway patrol of a threat that a gun would be brought into schools in Marion County, Missouri.
The Missouri county has two primary school districts, Marion County School District R-I and Marion County School District R-II. Classes remained in session there Thursday, according to Lawrano. Citing ongoing investigation, he declined to say anything further.
Kansas Bureau of Investigation shared similar information with Marion County, Kansas, law enforcement. Sheriff Jeff Soyez contacted local police chiefs, who in turn contacted local school superintendents.
“We put our information in that they probably ought to close just as a precaution,” Brazil said. “You really don’t know.”
Brazil then went to the Hillsboro Middle and High School parking lot, and chief Jessey Hiebert went to Hillsboro Elementary School.
“We were just there to look for anything suspicious,” Brazil said.
He said he left the school at 9 a.m. but planned to make several rounds through the school through the day.
“We’re at the schools in the mornings anyway,” he said.
Reached after meetings throughout the morning, Soyez said KBI told him a male 911 caller to Kansas City, Missouri, police had reported that he feared someone was planning to come to a Marion County school Thursday to shoot him.
Soyez met at 9 a.m. with sheriff's deputies and city police and at 10 a.m. with school officials. Investigation is continuing, he said.
Brazil said that Goessel’s decision to keep schools open surprised him.
“I was kind of shocked they did that,” he said, “but it’s their call.”
As of 7:30 p.m. Thursday, most social and online media feeds from county districts seemed to indicate business as usual, often featuring updated information about upcoming sports events.
Reporters Phyllis Zorn, Madeline Reida, and Eric Meyer contributed to this report.
Last modified April 14, 2022