An Eden Prairie High School (EPHS) student received anonymous threatening text messages directed at him and four other students as they sat in class Friday morning, Oct. 7, according to the student’s father.
EPLN has seen screenshots of a text exchange that consisted of various threats from the perpetrator and responses to these threats from the targeted student. One text from the perpetrator read, “I will be coming in the class room with a gun a knife and two kids at 12.15 don’t snitch …” Another read, “someone is dying today.”
The texts also appeared to indicate that the perpetrator was sitting in the same room as the five targeted students when the texts were sent.
In response to the anonymous threats, EPHS was placed under a stay-put lockdown around 12:45 p.m. so administrators could ensure student, staff, and visitor safety while they and the Eden Prairie Police Department (EPPD) investigated the situation.
During a stay-put lockdown, students and staff are locked in classrooms and school spaces, but teaching and activities can continue as normal. A duck-and-cover lockdown would have involved students and staff hiding in their locked rooms, which was not the case in this situation.
Eden Prairie Schools (EPS) issued an email notice to EPHS families at 1:01 p.m. that said the school had been placed under a stay-put lockdown out of “an abundance of caution” while the threat was investigated. It also said, “there have been similar threats across the state and country recently that all turned out to be hoaxes, and this threat follows a similar pattern.”
The ensuing three-hour, fifteen-minute lockdown secured the building and was lifted at 4 p.m. after the district and police said it was determined that the threat was not credible.
However, the incident left many parents, staff, and students on edge, particularly because the nature of the threat was not publicly known and because recent tragic incidents at schools around the country are at the forefront of their minds. Unfounded speculation, including unsubstantiated reports of an active shooter and a bomb, created rumors that left many in the EPHS community feeling shaken and worried.
Additionally, many parents mistakenly did not receive the school’s initial notification email and only found out about the long lockdown when students or other parents told them. EPS later said they “deeply regretted” this unforeseen error with its email communication system, which they addressed immediately upon realizing the problem.
Targeted student’s father said he felt uninformed
The father of the targeted student who received the anonymous threats contacted EPLN by phone Friday evening after an initial in-person conversation earlier in the day. He asked to remain anonymous since the student in question is a juvenile.
He said that his son did not know who sent him the threatening texts, but that he believed it was a fellow student in one of his classes.
At that time he also said he was not certain if the district had identified who sent the texts. However, on Sunday evening, he said that EPHS Principal Nate Gibbs confirmed to him in a phone call that the school does know the identity of the student and is addressing the situation.
He said that after EPHS was informed Friday of the texts and their content, his son was interviewed in a school office by administrators and police. Police in Minnesota are permitted to question minors without parents or guardians present, and minors may also refuse to answer police questions.
However, EPS District Policy 519, which governs how interviews with outside agencies should be handled, states in section II.B.:
“Requests from law enforcement officers and those other than a student’s parents, school district officials, employees and/or agents to interview students shall be made through the principal’s office. Upon receiving a request, it shall be the responsibility of the principal to determine whether the request will be granted. Prior to granting a request, the principal shall attempt to contact the student’s parents to inform them of the request, except where otherwise prohibited by law.”
The student’s father said that although his son agreed to cooperate, he felt that as the parent, he should have been informed prior to his son being interviewed by police. He said he also should have been given the opportunity to be present during the interview.
The father said police asked to look at his son’s cell phone. He said his son agreed, but then was asked to wait elsewhere while police looked at it without him: “They had him leave the room, they kept his phone, without me present. That’s not OK.”
He said he spoke with his son multiple times after the interview, and spoke once to EPHS associate principal Victor Johnson when he called his son. He said he was not directly contacted by administrators during the lockdown or immediately after.
His son was released from lockdown with the rest of the student body around 4 p.m. and walked to Round Lake, where he was reunited with his father.
Relief, but also frustration over incident
The father told EPLN he was relieved the threats were ultimately determined to be baseless but expressed frustration about some aspects of how the incident was handled. He said he wished he had been contacted sooner and given more detail by EPHS staff and police.
He said at 4:51 p.m., almost an hour after the lockdown ended, EPPD returned a phone call he had placed to them. He said an EPPD sergeant told him there was no reason for him to be concerned and that a suspect was being questioned. EPLN has reached out to EPPD to confirm this information.
He said he trusted that the investigation was thorough, and he felt reassured that there was no longer a threat. He acknowledged that data privacy laws and the need to protect minors involved must be respected. However, he said it made him uneasy that his son still did not know the perpetrator’s identity.
He said it was not until 5.24 p.m. Friday that he was contacted via phone by EPHS associate principals Johnson and Meg Bennett. He said he did not feel they were sufficiently forthcoming with information at that time, and instead wanted to know what he already knew about the situation.
He said he told them, “I know quite a bit. And I also know that not only did you dig through my son’s phone without talking to me first as his parent, you also interrogated him without me present. And you also looked through his phone with him in the other room. You had him leave the room. Do you have any idea how vulnerable that made him?”
He said “they were very apologetic” and offered to talk to his son, but he turned down the offer. “I said, ‘We’re home. I don’t even know if we need to be worried anymore.’ And they said, “No, you’re fine. There’s no threat anymore.” He said that was the first time anyone from EPS told him directly that there was no threat to his son.
Despite his frustration, he said he believed EPHS staff, including Johnson and Bennett, were “doing the best they can” given the circumstances.
However, he said, “I don’t like the fact that it seems they are sweeping it under the rug like it was some kind of a hoax, or that it didn’t really happen, because that doesn’t seem to be the case at all. And that’s not fair to us as parents.”
He said that what he perceived as insufficient communication and lack of timely reassurance from both EPPD and EPHS increased his fear for his son. As he and his son left the school after the lockdown, he said, “I was scared to come home… I’m looking behind my back trying to get to my house.”
Earlier threats compounded safety concerns
He said his concern for his son’s safety was compounded when he learned on Friday of other threatening communications his son had received two days prior outside of school hours and premises.
He said on Wednesday evening, his son had received six phone calls between 9:01 p.m. and 9:04 p.m. from a blocked number. He said when his son answered the phone, nobody spoke. Soon after, his son received anonymous Snapchat messages telling him to come outside the family’s Edina home. He did not go outside.
EPLN has seen the call log and copies of these messages, which included a personal photograph of the father with his son, and a photo of a piece of mail with the student’s home address on it. The father said that these images had been taken from his personal social media accounts.
The father said his son told police about this incident on Friday and is uncertain if the incidents are related. However, one of the text threats sent on Friday said that the perpetrator had been to the threatened student’s house.
The father said he wanted to share this story with families still wondering exactly what happened on Friday because “it feels like the right thing to do.”
“I feel bad for the parents of the kid doing this,” he said. “I want to be compassionate to them, too. Hopefully this is just a thing being blown out of proportion, kids being kids. Still, the country is a little scary right now.”
He said he wanted to be clear he was not trying to cause trouble by sharing his side of the story: “I’m a peaceful person. I don’t want to paint anybody in a negative light. The only thing I hope is that my experience can make things better.”
Families waited at Round Lake
During the lockdown, the father waited for news with other parents in a parking lot at Round Lake Park. Shortly after the lockdown began, families who had arrived to pick up students or learn more about the incident were redirected to the park by EPHS staff and police.
During the two to three hours many parents stood waiting in chilly weather, they talked, checked their phones, and exchanged information received from students inside the school. Many also approached responding police at the park and near school entrances in hopes of learning more.
EPHS staff members stationed at Round Lake answered questions based on what they said they were authorized to share and were in ongoing radio communication with the school.
By 3 p.m., however, many parents said they were unhappy that there had not been any official communications updates from EPHS since the initial 1:01 p.m. email alerting families to the lockdown.
Lena Knutson, the mother of a ninth grader, said she did not get the initial notification and only found out about the lockdown when her daughter texted her around 1:40 p.m.
“The disorganization of this, and the emotional toll that this is taking, is frustrating,” she said. “It makes me really angry and disappointed. In 2022, we should have a better system.” She added, “I expect a follow up and debriefing with families.”
EPHS parent Christopher Darey agreed. “You would think that after all of these school situations, especially what just happened in [Uvalde] Texas, that we would have a better system in place for situations like this,” he said.
Some also said they felt it was prematurely dismissive of the school to suggest in its initial communications that the threat was likely just a hoax. “To pass it off like that, is disrespectful to families,” said parent Scott Canonico.
He also said there should have been better communication with the students inside the school, many of whom were anxious and fearful. “There are kids sitting in there on social media hearing it all, and seeing it all, and they have no idea what’s going on,” he said.
As the afternoon wore on, some parents received texts from their students saying they were tired, hungry, and scared. However, other students said they were fine and were doing work, watching movies, and enjoying social time. Students said teachers and staff were extremely supportive and that food was brought to some classrooms.
At 3:28 p.m., EPS sent a concise email update that said, “All students and staff are safe. We’re continuing to hold in place until we get the all-clear from the Eden Prairie Police Department. Dismissal will be held until then.”
EPHS was finally given the official “all clear” around 4 p.m., and students were released to go home or wait for buses. EPHS also provided grab-and-go food for hungry students. EPS emailed instructions for how dismissal would work and notified families that after-school activities were canceled.
EPHS buses initially put on hold in the Eden Prairie Community Center parking lot were eventually redirected to pick up students from later scheduled routes to other schools. EPHS said this meant buses would not be back to pick up EPHS students until at least 5 p.m.
At 4 p.m., EPS sent an email that said it understood many families had questions about the incident, but it could not share specifics due to Minnesota state data privacy laws. “What we can share is this was an isolated situation, the threats were specific to a limited group of people, and the police found them not to be credible,” the email said.
Friday evening, EPS emailed families who had not received the initial notification about the lockdown to explain what happened. EPS said the notification had been sent using EPS’ standard communication tool. Upon learning not all families had received the message, “we immediately switched to a secondary tool to ensure all families would receive messages moving forward.”
On Saturday, EPS spokesperson Dirk Tedmon said the district “truly regretted” that some parents were mistakenly not notified, and he understood the impact it had on families.
“I’ll speak personally as a parent—I get it even more because I have kids in our schools, and I feel deeply when a miss like that happens,” he said. “At the end of the day, we’re talking about their kids and their safety. What could be more important than that?”
Regarding the absence of official communication between 1:01 p.m. and 3:28 p.m., Tedmon said, “In an evolving situation where we don’t have all of the information, we were trying to limit communication to the most necessary things at the right time.”
Tedmon said that district leadership would reflect on what went well and what could be improved on Monday. He said, “As part of that we’ll be looking at what additional communications or follow-up is needed with families, students, or staff.”
When asked if any students were facing consequences, Tedmon reiterated that state data privacy laws prevented him from commenting. However, he said, “We always follow our discipline policies when they are broken. In this case, we know there has been a deep impact to our community, and we would continue to follow our policies in the way we always would.”
EPHS students offered counseling
EPHS praised school resource officers and EPPD in a 4.30 p.m. Friday email to families: “Their quick and careful work, along with the efforts of our high school administrative team, ensured all our students and staff remained safe throughout the lockdown.”
At 2:48 p.m. Saturday, EPHS Principal Nate Gibbs messaged students via a course update on the Schoology platform. “Yesterday afternoon’s lockdown and the disruption after school brought up so many things to reflect on and process as a school community,” he said.
EPLN reached out Sunday to EPS for more information about the nature of the after-school “disruption” Gibbs was referencing. EPLN was told by EPHS students but could not confirm at the time of press that it involved a fight between a large group of students in the school activities center at around 4:30 p.m. Friday while students were waiting for buses.
In his message, Gibbs said he was proud of how the EPHS community handled the lockdown, especially since “no one knew what was going on or why.” He said he was aware the situation would impact each student differently and that counselors and social workers would be available on Monday to support students in Student Center East at any time.
Gibbs said, “my number one priority is to ensure that EPHS is a safe place for learning.” He said accountability was essential to keeping EPHS safe and added, “Those who attempt to distract from our core values and purpose will be held accountable.”
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