Ohio schools close over misinterpretation of video threat

AP News
Posted: Apr 29, 2016 6:00 PM

ATHENS, Ohio (AP) — Six Ohio school districts closed on Friday while authorities investigated what turned out to be a misinterpretation of an anonymous video threatening the safety of "American students."

Officials initially believed the threat might be directed toward Ohio University, but late Friday they said there was no risk to the university from the video, which was posted on the social media app Yeti by a user in Europe.

Investigators shared an image from the video that shows a hand holding a gun and the words: "Tomorrow American students will die. Some of u are ok. Don't go to school tomorrow."

A concerned member of the app's Ohio University group alerted authorities to the threat, but they determined that the video appeared in the user's Yeti feed based on keywords being monitored, not because the person making the threat was affiliated with the group.

Ohio University's main campus in Athens remained open as officials there worked with law enforcement to evaluate the threat, university spokeswoman Katie Quaranta said. She said the week of final exams was wrapping up and weekend commencement ceremonies for thousands of graduates would proceed as scheduled.

The FBI has been working with local law enforcement officials, spokesman Todd Lindgren said late Friday. He declined further comment.

Athens County Sheriff Rodney Smith told The Athens Messenger that his office learned early Friday about a general threat produced around Athens and made toward American students.

The districts that closed were Athens City, Nelsonville-York Local, Federal Hocking, Trimble Local, Alexander Local and Tri-County schools. Those largely rural districts have a total of more than 8,000 students, based on enrollment data provided to the state for last year.

In an audio message sent to parents, Athens schools Superintendent Tom Gibbs said his district decided to close given the "short time frame to respond to the threat."

The Ohio Department of Education was monitoring the situation as the closed school districts worked with local law enforcement, department spokeswoman Brittany Halpin said.