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Payson middle school receives bomb threat after viral ‘furry’ protest; no explosives found

By Carlene Coombs - | Apr 19, 2024

Harrison Epstein, Daily Herald file photo

The Nebo School District Administration Office in Spanish Fork is shown on Friday, April 14, 2023.

Mount Nebo Middle School in Payson has been cleared by police after multiple threats were made toward the school in response to a video that went viral on social media this week showing students protesting “furries” in the school.

Nebo School District spokesperson Seth Sorensen confirmed the threats and said police had done a thorough search of the school and didn’t find anything to support the threats. He added the threats also targeted school and district staff members and were sent via email and social media.

Sorensen said the threats were directly related to the social media video that was first shared Wednesday. An email threatening the school and specific staff members was sent early Friday morning to media outlets, including the Daily Herald, which alerted police.

That email lists the names and presumably home addresses of various administrators at the school and in Nebo School District, calling them “degenerates” who have been “marked for death.” “By the time this email has been sent, the following homes will have been blown up,” the email states before proclaiming, “we will kill you and make our country great again.”

“Based on their (police) investigation, they determined that it was safe to hold school, but we did inform parents of that so that they had the option to keep their children home should they decide,” Sorensen said. The school will have an increased police presence throughout the day.

An email sent to parents this morning was shared on a local Facebook group saying the threat was “noncredible” but informing parents they could keep their children home if necessary.

Payson Police Chief Brad Bishop told the Daily Herald on Friday morning that police conducted a search of the school at about 3:30 a.m on Friday.

“They didn’t find anything that was, I guess, pressing or credible in the threat,” he said, adding that police are investigating who the threat came from.

Bishop said the department will be increasing police patrols at all schools in Payson on Friday.

The video, shared Wednesday, showed a group of middle schoolers who said they were walking out in protest of “furries” — people who dress up as and act like animals — in the school, who the students claimed were biting, chasing and barking at other children, actions they allege were tolerated by teachers and administrators.

Sorensen said there have been no incidents of “biting, licking, costumes or animal behavior at Mount Nebo Middle School. These rumors are unfounded and are not occurring in our schools. We are committed to preventing negative behavior and fostering a respectful school community.”

The video has since been shared by Libs of TikTok, a right-wing account that often posts anti-LGBTQ+ content, as well as various other accounts.

Utah politicians such as U.S. Sen. Mike Lee and state Rep. Phil Lyman, who is campaigning for governor, shared the post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

“Why is this even a close call? Students who behave like animals and bite classmates should be expelled,” Lee wrote on X on Thursday, sharing the video. “Administrators who defend such behavior should be fired.”

Sorensen said the district had put out an email to parents on Tuesday, before the video went viral, reminding students to be respectful of others while at school.

“As responsible citizens, we hope you will look out for each other, take care of each other and treat each other with kindness,” the email read.

The email also reiterated the school’s dress code, which prohibits clothing and accessory elements that “draw undue attention, distract, disrupt, or otherwise interfere with the learning atmosphere.” It also states that district policy does not allow “written, verbal, or a physical act(s) that creates a hostile, threatening, humiliating, or abusive environment.”

“We encourage open communication,” Sorensen said. “If parents or patrons have concerns, we encourage them to please reach out to the school administration or myself. Our top priority is a safe and supportive environment for both students and parents.”

The Utah State Board of Education released a statement Friday afternoon expressing the importance of a safe learning environment for students “free from unnecessary disruption.” The statement urged parents and educators to contact local districts and schools with any concerns and to go to local school board members if issues aren’t resolved at the school level.

“In an age when everyone has a platform and the ability to share information quickly and broadly, emotions can sometimes run high, and it can be difficult to know what information is accurate,” the statement reads.

The Mount Nebo bomb threat follows closely on the heels of a similar circumstance that occurred last week, when an email sent to the Daily Herald and other media purported that the Mosaics Community Bookstore & Venue in Provo would be blown up.


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