Students are increasingly using the speed and seeming anonymity of the internet to post threats of violence against their schools and classmates. The extremity of some of these messages is forcing administrators to close schools or entire districts, impose frightening lockdowns, or evacuate buildings while police investigate. And this is now happening almost every day somewhere in the U.S. as the threats cut across districts of all sizes and demographic makeup.
These incidents follow a similar script: Students or other community members report the threat to administrators, disrupting instruction to varying degrees as police respond and students, staff and communities begin to panic. In many cases, officers are able to identify the source quickly, particularly when it’s a student who has posted the threats. Police then search schools and homes for weapons or any other sign that the student had the ability to carry out an attack. Even when the threats are not credible or meant as “pranks,” students are being arrested, expelled and sentenced.
Threats forced New York’s Poughkeepsie City School District to go remote for three days earlier this month. Administrators appealed to parents and families for help. “Since social media has resulted in the arrest of three PCSD students this school year, parents are strongly encouraged to speak with their children about the proper use of social media,” the district said on its website.
Here’s a rundown of closures and arrests that have occurred within just the last few months:
ALASKA: A juvenile was arrested on April 8 after a staff member at Eagle River High School near Anchorage reported a Snapchat post about someone bringing a gun to school, the Anchorage Daily News reported. No weapons were found.
CALIFORNIA: A youth was taken into custody on March 19 after several social media threats were made against high schools in Newport-Mesa USD. Police determined the youth did not have the means to carry out the threats, Patch.com reported. Elsewhere, a juvenile at Willits High School was arrested on March 16 after community members reported a social media threat and police alleged that the youth had the ability to carry out an attack, authorities said.
COLORADO: The East Otero School District was closed on March 28 due to a threat posted on social media, KKTV.com reported.
CONNECTICUT: Authorities say a juvenile was arrested on April 7 in connection with threats against Bristol Central High School staff and students that circulated on social media, WFSB.com reported.
INDIANA: A 15-year-old student at rural Seymour High School, part of Seymour Community Schools, was arrested after a faculty member reported receiving a screenshot of a threatening social media conversation, local police said on March 16 on Facebook.
LOUISIANA: A 15-year-old student was arrested and charged with obstruction of justice on March 30 for allegedly posting a threat against Woodlawn High School in Shreveport, the Caddo Parish Sheriff’s Office said.
MICHIGAN: Police arrested a 15-year-old Lake Fenton High School student for allegedly posting a threat to Snapchat that featured a picture of two assault rifles with the caption, “Don’t go to school tomorrow.” School administrators were initially alerted to the post by an out-of-county law enforcement agency, ABC12.com reported on March 23.
Marshall Public Schools in Michigan was shut down on March 16 after several students, parents, and staff members reported that threats were being posted on social media. A police investigation that quickly identified the alleged source resulted in expulsions and schools reopened the following day.
NEW JERSEY: A Cranford High School student was arrested on March 31 for allegedly posting a bomb threat on Twitter in early February, according to TapInto.net. The threat, though reported after school hours, caused an evacuation of the building.
NEW YORK: Poughkeepsie City School District’s middle school and high school returned to in-person learning on March 24 after an investigation into a social media threat resulted in police arresting at least one district student. Schools had been in remote learning for three days as a result of threats posted on social media, according to the Poughkeepsie Journal. Police say they charged a 15-year-old girl with four counts of making a terroristic threat (a felony), and arrested an 11-year-old girl for allegedly posting a threat on Snapchat, according to the newspaper’s website.
A student was arrested on March 20 for allegedly posting a threat against their middle school, which is near Niagara Falls, WGRZ.com reported. In a separate incident in the same region, police said a 12-year-old Lewiston-Porter Middle School student is facing charges—including making a terroristic threat, menacing, aggravated harassment, and conspiracy—in connection with a threat made on Snapchat, WGRZ.com reported.
OHIO: A Lakewood High School student was arrested on April 1 for allegedly posting social media threats that included photos of himself handling weapons, Cleveland19.com reported. The school was locked down while police searched for the student, who was located off-campus.
SOUTH CAROLINA: A 15-year-old student in the Greenville County School District was arrested at their high school on April 8 for allegedly posting a threat on social media, WYFF4.com reported. The students faces criminal charges and potential expulsion, the report said.
A middle school student who allegedly posted a threat on Snapchat was arrested on April 1 in the Laurens County School District 55, WYFF.com reported.
WASHINGTON: The Grand Coulee Dam School District closed both of its buildings on March 16 after a threat appeared on Snapchat. Law enforcement determined the threat to not be credible and schools reopened.
WEST VIRGINIA: A 17-year-old student in Cabell County Schools was arrested for allegedly posting that another student had brought a gun to school on March 29, WVMetroNews reported.