The day after a student killed four classmates in Oxford, Michigan, a teacher in Iowa was arrested for allegedly pretending to be a troubled student who planned to shoot up the high school where she worked.
Katrina Phelan, 37, was arrested on Wednesday and has been charged with three counts of making “threats of terrorism,” according to the Council Bluffs Police Department.
Ms Phelan taught at Abraham Lincoln High School and allegedly tried to start rumours at the school that a violent student was planning an attack.
“[D]etectives conducted an investigation into a series of anonymous handwritten notes found inside the school, all making reference to committing gun violence upon school property,” police said in a press statement. “Each of the notes were reportedly either found in Phelan’s classroom or found by Phelan herself, in various locations within the school.”
Once police became aware of what was happening, an arrest warrant was issued, which prompted Ms Phelan to turn herself in to the authorities.
After she was interrogated police determined that the threats were empty, and that there was no evidence the teacher had the means or will to carry out a mass violent act.
“When interviewed, Phelan admitted to writing the notes,” police wrote in the press statement. “It was determined that she had no intentions or means of carrying out these threats. In at least one of the notes, Phelan, posing as an unnamed student, wrote that she was tired of being made fun of.”
Ms Phelan’s motivations remain murky despite her arrest. KETV, a broadcaster in Omaha, Nebraska, reviewed a probable cause affidavit and found that the teacher claimed she had no memory of writing any of the notes.
When pressed why she might have written the notes, she allegedly said it was rooted in “concern, worry and frustration over the lack of control of her classroom.”
Ms Phelan allegedly said she wanted to show parents that the high school where she worked was “not a safe place.”
The incident prompted the school’s principal to send a letter to parents.
“The Council Bluffs Police Department has concluded its investigation into the threatening notes found at school a few weeks ago. They have determined the source of the notes to be a school employee,” Principal Bridgette Bellows wrote. “Investigators concluded there was no intent or means to carry out the threats. However, the employee has been charged with a crime, has voluntarily surrendered to the police, and will no longer be employed by the Council Bluffs Schools. We appreciate the detectives and their diligence in solving this crime.”
Ms Bellows suggested that students from the school assisted the investigation.
“During that investigation, students provided us with information that was helpful. This is what we expect from students at ALHS,” she said.
It was not clear exactly how the students assisted.
Ms Phelan was detained at the Pottawatamie County Jail. Each of her charges carry a potential five-year prison sentence.