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Gun rumor unfounded at Park High School in Cottage Grove

A rumor that a female student planned to bring a gun to Park High School on Friday was unfounded, Cottage Grove police and District 833 officials said.

Park staff and a police officer assigned to the school learned Thursday of rumored violence at the school, Cottage Grove police Capt. Pete Koerner said Friday morning. They later were given the name of a Park student, who was not in class on Thursday because she was sick.

"There was a girl identified that they said she's bringing a gun to school (Friday)," Koerner said of the rumors, some of which were third- or fourth-hand.

Police contacted the girl's parents at home, who were very cooperative as they dismissed the rumor.

Even after that rumor was found to be false, Koerner said students turned to Facebook and other social media Thursday night to spread other rumors about violence at the school.

"They did follow up on pretty much every rumor they heard," he said of police and school staff. The rumors were unsubstantiated.

Koerner commended students who approached the Park staff and the school resource officer Thursday after hearing the initial rumor.

According to a post on the District 833 website, schools were "working through rumors having to do with violence" that was purported to occur today.

"All rumors have been unfounded," the post stated. "After thorough follow through with our local police departments, we are confident that the schools will be safe today."

District 833 Communications Director Barb Brown said most of the rumors involved Park High School, but declined to say if the rumors involved other buildings in the district.

Park High School Principal Kerry Timmerman said class was carrying on as usual Friday.

"We have been following through on the rumors on a case-by-case basis and have not found any concerns that would cause us to close school for any reason," Timmerman said in a statement. "With our continued partnership, we will diligently work to keep our schools safe."

There was an extra police presence near schools throughout south Washington County this week.

Cottage Grove patrol officers have been visible in school zones and police were stationed in the Park High parking lot Friday morning, Koerner said.

Woodbury Public Safety Director Lee Vague this week ordered officers to provide a heightened police presence at Woodbury schools in response to the shootings a week ago at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. Vague said the increased presence, which began Monday, was made in consultation with District 833 Superintendent Keith Jacobus in an effort to reassure parents concerned with school safety after the Connecticut massacre.

Public Safety spokeswoman Michelle Okada today said the department "is continuing its efforts of an increased presence at Woodbury schools."

"Woodbury Police take every potential threat to safety seriously and in this case worked closely with school and district staff to investigate the rumors, which are unfounded," Okada said in a statement to the Bulletin.