Kent State student honored for stopping school threat

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

With representatives present from Ohio Homeland Security, the FBI and Pennsylvania State Police, Kent State University made sure the potentially life-saving deed of one its students didn't go unrecognized.

Zoe Burch, a KSU sophomore political science major, was honored Monday for reporting an online threat to carry out a school shooting.

"I was on the Internet, and I just saw something that was a pretty blatant threat against a high school in my home state, and I reported it to the Kent State police," said Burch, a Pittsburgh, Pa. native who read the threat in an Omegle.com chatroom on April 14 while at KSU.

She said the threat she reported named South Side High School in Beaver County, Pa. as a target, named the gun that would be used and stated it would occur at 10:30 a.m. the following day.

"I had never heard of the school before, and wasn't sure if it was a joke or a real school, but I looked it up and it was a real school so I reported it to the police," Burch said.

After discussing the threat with her mother, Michele, Burch called the KSU police to report the suspicious activity.

John Peach, KSU director of public safety, said KSU police immediately got in touch with Ohio Homeland Security officials and local FBI officials, who then collaborated with Pennslyvania State Police to make the arrest.

"As a result of the timely notification, we were able to collectively stop a real potential tradgedy and we want to thank you today," Peach told Burch, before awarding her a certificate of appreciation from the university.

"There are a lot of parents out there that are very appreciative and really would like to be here right now to thank you that they have their children with them and are now enjoying the opportunity to go to school again," he later said.

Ohio Homeland Security representative Andrew Stefanik, who also presented Burch with a certificate of appreciation, said Burch's actions display the significance of people reporting something when they see something.

"Far too often, I think, people are worried that maybe something is a non issue or someone is just trying to vent or blow off some steam, but in this case, it happened to be that real threat and luckily we were able to take some action on that thanks to Zoe's efforts," Stefanik said.

Law enforcement officials would not comment on the status of the suspect, citing an ongoing investigation and young age of the person in question.

Burch said gaining recognition for her act is something she never expected, but was rewarding.

"When I read (the certificate) I was thinking about what could have happened if I didn't say anything," she said. "I could have saved somebody's life. It is very rewarding."

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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