Minneapolis Public Schools place all buildings on lockdown after gun threat (UPDATE)

Someone threatened to open fire in a Minneapolis public school this morning and then shoot themselves, according to Minneapolis Police Spokesman Sgt. Jesse Garcia. Since the threat didn't single out a specific school, the district decided to lock down all its buildings on a "code yellow."

UPDATE: Police are now reporting that the lockdown was triggered by the Facebook page of an Australian who hasn't been in the country for seven years.

A little after 1 p.m., Minneapolis Public Schools sent a recorded message to parents that said, in part, "There is no reason to believe there is an immediate threat." Still, individual schools would remain in lockdown mode until the end of their school days and students go home.

A similar recorded telephone message from MPS sent out this morning said that all schools were locked down and all access to buildings was restricted. Classroom activities were to continue as normal, and students did not need to be picked up.

Students in at least one Minneapolis high school--Southwest--were encouraged by their principal to text their parents. Many did, to say they were OK.

Early reports indicated the threat first came via online social networking sites. But the Strib is reporting that that doesn't appear to be the case now:

A telephoned threat came into the city's 311 line about 7:30 a.m., saying that about two hours later "a male will be coming to a Minneapolis school, shoot up the school and then shoot himself," Garcia said.

MPS spokeswoman Emily Lowther said this afternoon that after police received the telephoned threat, they backtracked and found similar threats on Facebook and MySpace. MPS followed MPD's lead in issuing the alert, she said.

Police said there is also a "strong likelihood" that the MPS threat came from the same source as a similar threat made against Cretin-Derham Hall in St. Paul, which was is also on partial lockdown. St. Paul police have surrounded the private Catholic high school, home to about 1,320 students, and are investigating the building.

MPS posted the alert to its homepage:

We are working with Minneapolis police. We have communicated with families through our automated telephone call system to provide them with information as soon as we have it, and we will continue to use this system throughout the day as we learn more.

KARE reported that at Cretin-Derham:

The e-mail was sent to a school staffer shortly after 8 a.m. and indicated that the shooting would happen within 45 minutes. The school locked the building's exterior doors, but still allowed students to move from class to class. Police say the time indicated in the threat came and went and nothing happened.

"Code Yellow"

According to an MPS presentation available publicly, a "yellow alert" is issued when a potential threat is outside of a school building, creating a "Disruption in school environment or a change in school climate. In such cases, exterior doors are locked, interior doors are locked, but classroom work and instruction continues.

A "red alert," the next threat level -- and not the alert issued this morning -- is made when the threat comes from inside a building. All exterior doors are locked, all interior doors are locked, no one is allowed in or out, everyone in the building is ordered to stay out of sight and quiet; away from windows and doors, asked to remain calm and await further direction.

There are roughly 34,000 students and 6,255 staff in Minneapolis Public Schools, spread over 91 schools, and other administrative offices.

MPS says its schools will remain on lockdown until the end of the school day.

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