A 16-year-old boy was arrested Thursday night in connection with threats made at Valparaiso High School, which has seen multiple lockdowns over the past few weeks.
Several schools in Northwest Indiana received threats from an unknown caller Thursday morning that proved to be noncredible and went into lockdown, or lockout, status, police said.
The teenager from Ohio was taken into custody for the threats against Valparaiso High School, according to a statement from the Valparaiso Police Department. A false bomb threat Jan. 9 locked down the school and led to an early release of students. A false threat of violence Jan. 17 triggered a second lockout response from police and disrupted school operations, according to officials.
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Authorities could not confirm whether the juvenile is also connected with the threats against Portage and Hobart high schools. Portage and Hobart police said their departments will conduct investigations into the incidents at their local schools.
Valparaiso, Portage and Hobart high schools received threatening calls and implemented security measures, police said, and Wheeler High School in Porter County implemented a lockout. Once lifted, Portage High School dismissed its students for the day. Wheeler cancelled after-school activities.
The Valparaiso Police Department said the threats were received between 9:25 and 10 a.m.
The Portage Police Department said in a social media post shortly before 10 a.m. that Portage High School had "received an anonymous phone call in which a person threatened violence later in the day," prompting its lockdown.
"It was determined to be a noncredible threat," police said in a social media post around 10:40 a.m. "Schools went on lockouts out of precaution."
Hobart police said the caller didn't specify a school in the threat there, "but erring on the side of caution, Superintendent (Peggy) Buffington ordered the schools to be locked down."
In a message to the school community Thursday afternoon, Buffington wrote that "our staff and students were amazing at following protocol as we secured our buildings" until it was determined there was no active threat.
"From administrative assistants to administrators to (school resource officers) to the (Hobart Police Department) to other school districts and to their authorities, everyone was collaborating to keep everyone safe," she said.
The Valparaiso, Portage and Porter County sheriff's departments said jointly that "many police agencies, including ours, began working together and investigating the credibility of the threat and origin. ... All agencies will be working toward filing charges on the person responsible and holding them accountable for their actions."
Upon receiving the news that a suspect was in custody, Valparaiso Community Schools Superintendent Jim McCall said it was "exceedingly great news."
"I just want to laud the support that the community agencies gave," McCall said at Thursday’s Valparaiso School Board meeting, specifically identifying the Valparaiso Fire Department, Valparaiso Police Department and Porter County Sheriff's Office. "When these incidents occur, we take each one seriously — we have to. We adhere to protocols and we communicate effectively. We never outpace the students in communication, but we strive to be timely and accurate with as much information as we can provide."
McCall praised his staff for their response to each of the three incidents.
"It's paramount we keep the students and staff safe and communicate effectively," he said. "It's never something that you want to do, but it’s something you prepare to do."
Valparaiso police said the investigation is ongoing and further information will be released when available.
Times reporters Lizzie Kaboski and William Skipworth contributed to this report.