The Slovenia Times

Police face criticism over school shooting threat

PoliticsScience & Education
Children in school. Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Slovenian police have been facing public criticism over the way they handled an online school shooting threat that prompted schools to step up security in recent days. The interior minister has ordered a review.

The threat was made on 2 April in the comment section on the news portal 24ur under a news article about the deadly school shooting in Finland on that day, 24ur revealed on 11 April.

According to the portal, the user Slava_Rusiji (Glory_to Russia) wrote: "And on 10 April it will happen here".

The portal deleted the comment within minutes, at the same time reporting it to the law enforcement authorities and securing all the evidence needed to track down the author.

Then, on 8 April, the Ljubljana Police Department went public with the threat, calling on schools to be vigilant and increase self-protective behaviour while saying that such an event was unlikely.

The news of the threat caused a stir among teachers, students and parents, and most schools beefed up security on the day of the suggested attack while police presence around schools was also increased.

Police said they had no legal basis to track the author of the comment, because of the short time the comment was online and because the threat was not directed at any specific location or institution.

They received several reports of further alleged online threats against schools on 9 and 10 April. Some proved not be a criminal offence, while others are still being investigated.

Schools left to their own devices

Schools reacted variously to the threat with some informing parents and students, and some not. Some deployed security guards and locked entrances and police patrolled the areas around schools.

Classes went on as usual but some reported that some classes were half empty with students staying at home, likely out of precaution. A number have also informed their school they would be absent due to the start of Eid al-Fitr Muslim celebrations.

Several head teachers said the atmosphere at their school was positive and relaxed despite the circumstances, and warned against panic, but one noted the threat had a lingering effect on some students and parents, who would like permanent security measures.

Meanwhile, Mojca Mihelič, the head of the Association of Head Teachers, criticised police for notifying the public, saying this has unnecessarily escalated the situation and upset the students and parents.

She was also critical of individual police officers informing individual schools about the alleged threat, saying that in such cases the police are expected to notify the ministry, which would then send guidelines and propose measures to schools.

Review under way

Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar defended police response against criticism in parliament on 10 April, while agreeing that communication protocols should be somewhat improved to avoid unnecessary panic.

But the next day, the minister ordered a review of how police handled the threat and whether the communication about it was conducted appropriately and lawfully.

Damjan Petrič, head of the Criminal Police Department, said that it was difficult for the police to set a uniform pattern of what to communicate, since schools in local communities had different safety cultures.

The police take every threat seriously, even if it is made in the virtual world, Petrič said, calling for legislative amendments to further ensure appropriate action in such cases.

It had been unclear until 11 April what the exact wording of the threat had been, where it appeared or who deleted it.

But then the news portal 24ur went public with how it deleted the threat and reported it to the police in an article headlined How the Police Caused Several Days of Panic in Slovenian Schools.

To comment, users need to register and leave a number of data with the portal, including a confirmed email address and phone number.

"In order to protect personal data, we can only hand over a user's digital identity to the authorities based on a request by a prosecutor or a court order," the portal said.

The portal said that two crime investigators paid them a visit on 9 April, only after the portal told the police yet again it had secured the evidence, but without a court order.

The police have been arguing that not all criteria were met to classify the threat as an offence of causing public danger and that they have no legal basis to establish the identity of the author.

No school shooting has ever taken place in Slovenia, but a major potential incident was prevented in 2021 when the police, acting on a tip-off from the US law enforcement authorities, apprehended a suspect who had been planning a shooting rampage at public institutions in the north-western region of Gorenjska.

The number of threats has increased after a deadly shooting spree in a primary school in Serbia in May 2023. Some have indicated the latest ones may be linked to increased Russian cyber activity in Slovenia.


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