By Paul Burton

GARDNER (CBS) — Gardner Police opened a criminal investigation into two emails that appeared to be from a Gardner Public Schools email account. The email “contained threats against a school with racial phrases” and was sent to more than 5,000 people.

Police said they began receiving calls about the email at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday.

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A second email was sent around 1 a.m. to the same group of people containing a specific date that a threatened incident would take place and “extremely graphic images that appear to be taken from the internet.”

Gardner School Superintendent Mark Pellegrino said he is horrified by the emails.

“They said they would blow up a school on Sunday. The police have done thorough search of all the schools,” Pellegrino said.

The images, videos and messages are too graphic and hateful to be shown on TV. The email included violence, racism and child pornography.

The email came from a high school student’s email account, but Pellegrino is urging everyone not to jump to conclusions.

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“So there’s a name attached to these emails. And I am very concerned that people will jump to the conclusion that that person who owns the account is also the author of these messages. I don’t know if that’s necessarily true,” Pellegrino said.

Gardner Public Schools have been doing remote learning. The IT department quickly discovered the problem in one of the family communication tools and shut it down.

“There’s an option in one of our tools which allows broadcast emails to other people in the community and somehow that was checked off, Pellegrino said. “So it’s since been turned off so it would not happen again in this way.”

The school department sent an email to parents, students and teachers and is also working with a crisis team.

“We want to make sure that we are supporting all of our families, and our staff,” Pellegrino said.

Police said the schools are secure and no threats have been found at this time.

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“We want to apologize for the graphic content of this email,” Gardner High School posted on Facebook. They said they are working with the police.

Paul Burton