Delta Police were called to a North Delta high school Thursday morning (Jan. 26) after a picture was circulated on social media of a student holding what appeared to be a gun and a threatening caption.
Burnsview Secondary was put under a “code yellow” alert at about 10 a.m. after administrators were made aware of the photo. The alert lasted for roughly 40 minutes.
The incident turned out to be a gag that got out of hand, as a private post between friends was circulated to a wider school audience. Delta Police public affairs coordinator Sharlene Brooks said police spoke to the student involved and determined there was no threat to students or staff.
“I don’t believe we’re considering any charges. We’ll let the school deal with it at the school level.”
The weapon in the photo turned out to be an Airsoft pellet gun, which police located off campus.
“To anyone taking a look at it, it would have looked like a real gun,” Brooks said. “The right thing was that it did come to our attention and all systems worked as they should. The school processes with respect to the code yellow worked, and police response was immediate and appropriate.”
Jennifer Hill, Delta School District’s communications and marketing manager, called the incident a “bad joke gone wrong” and said it’s a good reminder of how things like this can get out of hand very easily when shared online.
“The district and the schools and staff and parents, we take the severity of online harassment and threats – whether it’s intended as a joke or not – we take it very seriously.”
Hill said the student was removed from school at the time but couldn’t say whether the student would face any disciplinary action from the school.
“We’re using this as an opportunity to communicate with parents that it’s always a good idea to talk with their children about the importance of reporting any worrisome or inappropriate online activity,” Hill said. “The Burnsview staff followed procedure very well and they were really calm and professional throughout the whole period, so we’re really glad about that.”
Hill said that contrary to earlier reports the school was not in a lockdown.
“A lockdown is what happens when you have a ‘code red.’ This was a code yellow, and what that means is exterior building doors are locked and business is as usual inside the school.”
In a code yellow, school administrators contact police and lock all exterior doors while teachers secure windows, draw the blinds and take attendance. Students are largely kept in class, but are still permitted to leave for reasons such as to use the restroom.
“Under a code red it’s ‘shelter-in-place,’ where you are seeking refuge. It’s a more emergent situation.”
Hill also said that despite what had been reported previously by local media, nearby Chalmers Elementary, which shares a field with Burnsview, was not placed under a code yellow. Rather, administrators at Chalmers were kept appraised of the situation, and they in turn let parents know what was going on.
“At no point were students or staff in any danger.”
Brooks said she hopes others can learn from this student’s mistake.
“It just demonstrates actually what can go wrong on social media when you’re sharing those kinds of things. You need to be careful, you need to be mindful and I think this young teen has certainly come to appreciate the gravity of the situation based on our response,” she said. “All the systems worked exactly as they should, so it was a good in that respect, but I wouldn’t say this was a good situation by any means.”