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Worthington superintendent says Kilbourne threats targeted Black students, principal

Worthington Kilbourne High School
Worthington Schools
Worthington Kilbourne High School

Updated: Sept. 22, 2023, 11:49 AM ET

Worthington Kilbourne High School remained closed for a second day on Friday following a bomb and shooting threat that shut the school down on Thursday.

District officials say a second threat was made Thursday night targeting Black students and Worthington Kilbourne's Principal Aric Thomas.

The email that contained the threats was routed through Germany, but the origin of the email is not currently known, the district said in a statement posted on it website.

The district had initially planned to reopen on Friday with an active police presence at the school.

Columbus Police and the Department of Homeland Security investigated the credibility of the threats that were emailed to the Worthington City School District.

Superintendent Trent Bowers said the threat required immediate attention and a serious response and the district couldn't in good conscience allow the school to remain open. No word on any suspects.

Jennifer Fisher has two kids who attend Worthington Kilbourne and play in the school marching band. Elena is a senior and Brandon is a sophomore.

Fisher said she is worried about the safety and mental health of her kids and other students in the district following these threats.

"I think there will be a lot of people who are going to feel very cautious. I know I myself, I was cautious enough thinking about sending them today. And, you know, it's just going to be in the back of the mind of the parents," Fisher said.

Fisher said as a parent it made her very nervous but her two children acted like it was normal. She acknowledged the generational difference between her and her children and how schoolchildren since the early 2000s have been taught lockdown drills because of an increase in school shootings and threats.

"So truly, their entire school lives it felt like a very real thing, you know, almost commonplace. And I don't know what that must be doing to them," Fisher said.

Columbus Police originally investigated a bomb and shooting threat at Worthington Kilbourne High School that closed down the school Thursday.

Worthington Schools Superintendent Trent Bowers posted a blog update on Thursday and said at 7:40 a.m. the district received a threat and as of this afternoon administrative staff swept all spaces in the school.

Bowers said Thursday morning the district discovered the threat, which had been emailed overnight, containing language threatening to both bomb and shoot up the school. He said the Columbus Division of Police Counter-Terrorism Task Force and Ohio's branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security were contacted to help verify the credibility of the threat.

"This required immediate attention and a serious response. Our top priority is always the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and community members. We could not, in good conscience, allow the school to remain open without working with local law enforcement," Bowers said.

Columbus police spokesperson Andrés Antequera said on Thursday the threat is being actively investigated and no further information is available at this time.

Officers from the Columbus Division of Police responded to the incident because the school is located within their service area.

"We understand that this closure may have caused concerns for many in our community and inconveniences for Worthington Kilbourne families, and we sincerely apologize for any distress," Bowers said. "We are grateful for your patience, understanding, and support as we navigate through these challenging circumstances."

Bowers, in his statement on Friday, said he does not know yet if the high school will reopen Monday.

Fisher said today's away football game is still scheduled to happen and her two children will be going. She said she was told there will be a police presence before the bus leaves Worthington.

Fisher said she is very appreciative of how communicative Worthington Schools has been.

"It's better to be very safe and very cautious than put any students lives in danger. So. You know, to me, I think that's a very important step and very much appreciated by me and I'm sure many, many other parents as well," Fisher said.

George Shillcock is a reporter for 89.7 NPR News. He joined the WOSU newsroom in April 2023 following three years as a reporter in Iowa with the USA Today Network.