Altercations between students and threats of violence prompted law enforcement to have an increased presence at the high school this week.
A fight near the school on Tuesday left one student needing medical attention. School administrators sent a letter home with students on Wednesday telling parents a student had died unexpectedly in Shiprock last weekend and the note asked parents to monitor social networking sites for threats or bullying because of recent incidents at the school.
Several parents kept their children home from school because of perceived danger, said Dawn Facka, a parent of a sophomore at the school.
"I am not sending my child back to school until he feels safe," she said.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office sent four detectives to the high school during the school week. The detectives interviewed and searched about 30 students. They found no weapons and made no arrests, Sgt. Dave Hamlin said.
"We didn't see any legitimate threats or danger," he said. "If (the sheriff's office) believed there was any real danger, the school would have been locked down."
Police on school grounds is not as common in the Central Consolidated School District as it is in Farmington, where seven juvenile detectives have a strong presence on campuses. CCSD relies on security at Kirtland and Shiprock high schools, said James Preminger, a spokesman for the school district.
"We obviously take any threat seriously," Hamlin said. "That's why we increased security."
The fight that landed one student in the hospital was between two people, Hamlin said. That incident is still being investigated.
Hamlin said it appears the threats of violence involved a relatively small group of students. The reason for the tension: A bad breakup between a senior and freshman pitted several groups of friends against each other.
"It's nothing gang related," Hamlin said. "It's friends taking sides against friends."
Hamlin said the sheriff's office will have a presence at the school until the threats stop.
"We can't predict when it will wind down, that's up to the students," he said. "We've spent hours interviewing kids and telling them to calm down."
The school district hired Al Nedera, the dean of students at Tse' bit ai' Middle School in Shiprock, to work as an administrator at the school next week and focus strictly on student discipline, Preminger said.
"We're trying to provide the school with additional resources," he said. "Even though it's just a small group of students who were in a fight, we want to stay on top of this and make sure the school continues to be safe."
There was no school on Friday at the high school because of a teacher-training day planned before the school year started, Preminger said.
Both the school district and the sheriff's office said there appears to be no link between fights and threats among students and the junior at the high school who died in Shiprock last weekend.
Tribal police in Shiprock are investigating the death and haven't released any information about the circumstances behind it.
"Social media seemed to a play into the fear factor and escalated the story into something bigger," Preminger said.