116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — A student brought a loaded gun to McKinley STEAM Academy on Friday, police said, when schools and law enforcement officials already were on high alert because of a nationwide social media post
Thousands of Eastern Iowa students stayed home from school Friday after an anonymous TikTok social media post declared it to be “American School Shooting Day.” Law enforcement and education officials throughout Iowa said they were monitoring but knew of no credible threats of school violence in the state.
Cedar Rapids police said a loaded gun was found about 11:15 a.m. in a student’s locker at McKinley, 620 10th St. SE. Another student had alerted school officials about the gun, and school officials held two students until police arrived. The students were taken to the police department and interviewed.
One male student, whose name and age were not disclosed by authorities, faces a charge of carrying a firearm on school grounds, a Class D felony, and taken to the Linn County Juvenile Detention Center, police said.
The Cedar Rapids district reported 59 percent of its 16,000 students were absent Friday. By comparison, 26 percent of the students were absent one week ago.
The Iowa City Community School District reported one-third of its 14,000 students absent Friday. The absentee rate is typically about 6 percent.
And the College Community School District reported 35 percent of its 5,800 students were absent. On a typical day, about 10 percent of students are absent.
At McKinley, where the gun was found, the school determined there was “cause for concern” with two students, Principal Jason Martinez said in an email Friday afternoon to families.
“I’d like to assure you that safety, security and maintaining an orderly environment is our top priority,” Martinez wrote. “When an incident occurs, which may compromise our safe environment for all staff, students and visitors in the building, we immediately implement any necessary security procedures.”
The “School Shooting Day” threat spread nationally on social media, warning of school shootings or bombs.
TikTok has been deleting posts spreading “misinformation that is generally sparking alarming warnings” but is not finding posts that are promoting violence or making threats, company spokesperson Hilary McQuaide said.
“We are removing the alarmist warnings,” she said. “Those are misinformation.”
Some school districts canceled classes despite the U.S. Department of Homeland Security saying it had no information “indicating any specific, credible threats to schools.”
The Iowa Department of Public Safety said Thursday night it, too, was monitoring the situation.
“At this time, we are not seeing any specific or credible threats toward any schools in Iowa, but we are continuing to diligently monitor the situation,” said Pat Waymire, assistant director of the Division of Intelligence and Fusion Center.
The department encouraged parents and guardians to talk with their children about the appropriate use of social media and the seriousness and consequences of making any kind of threat.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department, in a Thursday Facebook post, said there was “no credible threat to Cedar Rapids schools” and that it was working with school resource officers and school district staff to “ensure the safety of every child.”
Similar communications went out to families in the Iowa City, Linn-Mar and Marion Independent school districts.
Lo Whittington of Iowa City, an advocate with Moms Demand Action, which seeks measures to protect people from gun violence, said in an email that the threats like this harm children.
We “find ourselves helplessly accepting gun violence as the ‘new normal,’ ” Whittington said. She encouraged adults to securely store their weapons to reduce the level of threats to school safety.
“There should be nothing normal about gun violence that makes this part of anyone’s school day,” said Whittington, a retired teacher. “There should be nothing normal about a national threat of such violence.”
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.