GARY, Ind. — An 11-year-old is in custody in connection with a potential shooting threat at Lake Ridge New Tech Middle School in Gary.

According to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department, a social media post threatened an active shooter situation at the school at 9 a.m. Monday. The post included a photo of several assault rifles and named a teacher as a potential victim.

So far, at least three juveniles, 11,12, and 13 years old, have been identified as potential suspects and will be interviewed.

The 11-year-old is now in custody at the Lake County Juvenile Detention Center. Criminal charges are pending through the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office.

The child’s mother has also been arrested on an outstanding warrant for neglect of a dependent, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Department. To protect the identity of 11-year-old, the mother’s name will not be released at this time by the department.

I am extremely proud of the work our officers are doing on this case to prevent an emergency.  Even if the posts turn out to be a hoax, we want to be clear that this type of suspicious behavior will not be tolerated in Lake County, Indiana.  We have a dedicated team of analysts who specialize in electronic media investigations.  To those who would attempt to threaten lives in Lake County and hide behind social media – we will identify you, we will find you and we will prosecute you.

-Sheriff Oscar Martinez Jr.

The middle school released the following statement:

Warriors, it should take no reminding that the safety of our Students and Staff is everyone’s responsibility. We’ve seen too many times in schools and  communities that if people would have lived by this rule, lives would have been saved. Immediately reporting who has made threats against a school community is not a choice, it’s a moral duty for everyone’s physical and mental safety.

We ask that every family speak to their children today about the need to error on the side of extreme caution and report any person who makes a threat against a school to school Staff and or the Police. Students may think their peers are saying things as a joke, but as we’ve seen time and time again, threats have been a reality for many school communities and can never been taken as a joke, by anyone. It never has to be our reality if we all work together to be sure any threats are immediately addressed.

We must teach our children to be an upstander and never allow their conversations with their peers to be ok with allowing people to even joke about threats to harm anyone. They need to understand what to say and be comfortable with addressing people or situations where this occur. At minimum they must tell you it another adult, even if they are scared because what they thought was a joke gets out of hand. It’s the only way we know everyone is safe. Threats against our school community can and will never be treated as a joke in our current reality by school Staff or Police. If people are not honest, Authorities will take all means necessary to then be sure the source(s) is found and addressed legally.

Students, Staff, Family Members, Community Members, etc. must know when they see something, they have no option but to say something. We must understand when someone knows and chooses not to share the information on who made threats, participates in spreading panic and fear by reposting or sharing threats instead of telling an adult, or choose to be silent because they don’t want to “snitch”, we become just as responsible for the threat as the person who makes it. If students make such threats, without understanding or intending to cause such fear, they must take ownership of their actions and be sure everyone knows they are in fact safe. If they don’t, then they will be treated as though they made a viable threat.

As adults, we must also remember that we must monitor our children’s social media. They are children and need help in learning how to use social media responsibly. They must taught by all of us that everything they say, post, and participate in through group or individual conversations becomes a part of their digital footprint and is not private. We must especially teach them how to recognize when people may be saying things that may indicate a person may need help or could be a danger to themselves or others and need an adult  to intervene and get them to the help or authorities needed to for safety. If we don’t monitor our children’s social media regularly, we can’t help them learn these skills, and threats like this can continue to cause havoc in our school community.

Please take the time to look through your child’s accounts, see who they are following, who and what is influencing their lives good or bad, and monitor the conversations they are having with others online. We must do this to help our children. These practices  can and do save lives, and may even the life of your own child.

Please reach out to us if your child has anything of concern to report to us, whether related to this threat, others, or the well-being of a peer. We thank you for working together with us and taking the time to talk with your children today. We thank Lake County, Staff, Students, and Families for helping us ensure everyone’s safety by working together to get these threats addressed. We are One!

Lake Ridge New Tech Middle School