MILTON-FREEWATER — A male high-school student is behind locked doors and public schools here were open today after a full-district closure on Friday when Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office notified school district officials of a threat allegedly made by a student.

Milton-Freewater Unified School District Superintendent Rob Clark said that starting today, people will notice a more visible police presence at McLoughlin High School.

A male student, new to the district this year, reportedly told other students sometime Thursday he planned to shoot up Mac-Hi on Friday, starting with the science wing.

Clark said early Friday morning the boy who made the threat had not been picked up by law enforcement, and the only safe option was to close all buildings to students and staff. That decision was made before 6 a.m., when school bus drivers were scheduled to begin routes.

The teen who allegedly made the threat was arrested later that morning and lodged at the Juvenile Justice Center in Walla Walla on investigation of fourth-degree assault and disorderly conduct. Authorities said the boy had already been a suspect in an assault complaint in the Milton-Freewater area involving another high-school-age male.

Umatilla County Sheriff’s Office deputies said that was how they became aware of the alleged threat to commit a shooting.

The boy denied making threats toward the school or any other place. He also lacked access to firearms, but deputies found sufficient evidence to arrest him in connection with the events, a news release said.

Clark said the arrest allowed school officials to “breathe a sigh of relief” and open school buildings for staff later Friday morning. Scheduled football and soccer games also went on as planned.

Safety has to be the district’s top priority, he noted. “We can take pride in the fact that some of our students reported the incident to law enforcement,” he said.

Clark added that although he and others want to be as transparent as possible, further details about the incident must wait for a completed investigation and due legal process. However, Friday’s event has nothing to do with gang activity or another altercation reported to the school last week, he said.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at or 526-8322.

Sheila Hagar has written for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin since 1998. Sheila covers education in the Walla Walla Valley. She also writes a column, Home Place, usually highlighting family life and slices of local life.