No bomb found at Kiel Middle School after latest threat

They want to see a resolution to the situation after the school district receives a fourth bomb threat this week.
Published: May. 27, 2022 at 7:31 AM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2022 at 4:49 PM CDT
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KIEL, Wis. (WBAY) - The Kiel community remains on edge.

For the fourth time this week, someone emailed local media a bomb threat directed at the Kiel Middle School and the district administration building. Again, the email referenced an ongoing Title IX investigation as the reason for the threat.

Police and firefighters responded to the school Friday morning as the district continues to receive bomb threats over the investigation involving three middle school boys who are accused of sexual harassment by not using a classmate’s preferred pronouns.

Action 2 News received an email Friday saying bombs had been placed in the middle school and district office buildings. We shared that email with police. A short time later, crews responded to the middle school.

Action 2 News was there for live reports for our morning show when police and firefighters arrived on scene.

Investigators searched the school and found nothing Friday. They cleared the scene at about 8:30 a.m.

The threats have led the district to end in-person classes for the rest of the school year and they’ve forced the cancellation of the city’s Memorial Day parade. People in Kiel say these repeated threats are becoming exhausting.

“We can’t even live with all these threats the way we should, so it’s kind of scary when you think about that stuff,” Russel Horneck, who lives in Kiel, said.

The most recent threats weren’t just aimed at the Kiel Area School District. Friday’s email said if demands weren’t met, the city was at risk too. The sender demanded the district drop the sexual harassment investigation and issue a public apology by 11 A.M. Monday or risk additional disruptions to life in Kiel, causing chaos with businesses, the power station, hotels and hospitals.

The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL), which is defending the families of the boys accused of the sexual harassment, issued a statement disavowing the threats:

People in Kiel want some sort of resolution.

“Very much being held hostage, and I don’t necessarily agree with how it’s being handled on either side,” Roxane Lisowe of Kaleidoscope LLC in Kiel said.

“It’s just sad. It’s this happy, beautiful, little community is just being rocked, and it’s impacting everyone -- the kids, the adults, the businesses. It’s just sad. It’s senseless,” Kiel resident Sue Baus said.

The school district hasn’t commented on the latest threat.

Kiel Police say they’ve been working with the Wisconsin Department of Justice and FBI since the initial threat on Monday.

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We spoke with our I.T. engineer, who said the email we and others received Friday morning can from an encrypted Proton Mail address. That email service is hosted by Amazon, so once investigators receive the legal clearance they have a place to start digging.

“Amazon should be able to find the IP that signed into it. Chances are it’s coming through several VPNs to hide that IP address, but that’s the first start is getting into the actual mail server logs and working backward from there,” Jordan Morel said. The IP address would be unique to the network or even the device used to create the account. A VPN -- virtual private network -- encrypts network traffic and can be used to hide where it originated.

Morel believes based on the email’s poor spelling and grammar that it originated from outside the United States. For instance, the email uses the word “willn’t” instead of “won’t.” He says some of the odd phrasing suggests it was written with the help of translation software, like Google Translate. He also points out “odd characters in the email that seem to point to non-U.S.-based typing.”

Nothing was found after the fourth bomb threat this week. Now the threats extend to the city, and Kiel residents are getting exhausted.
Crews respond to Kiel Middle School after another bomb threat. May 27, 2022.
Crews respond to Kiel Middle School after another bomb threat. May 27, 2022.(WBAY)

Police, members of the media and school staffers have been receiving emails threatening bomb threats against the middle school since Monday. The threats reference a Title IX investigation in the district. The email states the threats will continue every day unless demands are met.

The person responsible said unless the district halts its investigation of sexual harassment against three eighth-graders and apologizes, the threats will escalate and could target the rest of the community, including city hall, grocery stores and power stations.

The city of Kiel on Thursday announced it was canceling the Memorial Day Parade.

“Given ongoing security concerns in and around the City of Kiel, the Memorial Day Parade is canceled,” reads a post on the city’s Facebook page.

The district will finish the school year in virtual learning. District Administrator Brad Ebert said he wrote the announcement that students won’t return to the classroom “with tears in my eyes and am heartbroken and devastated.” The end of school is June 3.

A letter to district parents said all facilities will be closed -- including the fitness center, pool, and Full Circle Care -- and school concerts are canceled. The district wants to continue all high school sporting events, but they will be held off-site. The administrator said discussions about graduation are ongoing in hopes of holding the event.

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is assisting with the investigation into who is sending the bomb threats. Authorities aren’t saying if they have a suspect or any leads.

The threats started Monday. Schools were evacuated and students were sent home. Classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday. The school district then decided to go virtual for the rest of the year.

In April, the parents of three boys were notified their sons were being charged by school district officials with sexual harassment. A section of Title IX prohibits gender-based harassment in the form of name-calling on the basis of sex.

The district claims the boys were not referring to a student’s requested pronouns of “they” and “them.”

Through a letter from their attorney, the parents are asking for the charges to be dropped immediately, saying they have no standing legally.

“It’s not sexual harassment under Title IX, under their own policy, under federal law, and it’s probably a First Amendment violation. Almost certainly, if that’s their theory, that solely using the wrong pronoun, that that would be a First Amendment violation,” Luke Berg with the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty said. “This is a really gross application of Title IX sexual harassment charges. Sexual harassment covers really egregious stuff, not using the so-called wrong pronoun.”

The attorney also said the charges have no standing under the school district’s own policy.

“Eighth-graders shouldn’t be subjected to this kind of investigation or this type of reputational harm for something that on its face clearly doesn’t violate Title IX in sexual harassment. Their own policy says that if on the face of the complaint the conduct, even if proven, wouldn’t amount to sexual harassment it should be immediately dismissed, and that’s what should have happened here and it didn’t,” Berg said.

The student at the center of this has not been publicly identified.

A Kiel middle school parent said it’s about more than pronouns. The parent explained their child has come home from school crying, as they’ve been the target of homophobic slurs and harassment.

“The KASD prohibits all forms of bullying and harassment in accordance with all laws, including Title IX, and will continue to support ALL students regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, creed, pregnancy, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, sex (including transgender status, change of sex or gender identity), or physical, mental, emotional or learning disability (”Protected Classes”) in any of its student programs and activities; this is consistent with school board policy. We do not comment on any student matters,” said Brad Ebert, Kiel Superintendent.

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