Social media fuel Johnstown, Broadalbin-Perth school threats

Friday, December 21, 2012
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— The Johnstown and the Broadalbin-Perth school districts this week had to deal with rumors fueled by the social media network of threatened violence to their students.

The rumors proved unfounded, but not before the districts had to call in law enforcement officials and conduct investigations involving dozens of student interviews.

Separate schools, separate incidents. Both connected by the tragic shooting last week of 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.

Johnstown called in local police Monday based on information school officials learned from a Johnstown High School student. “This was triggered by the event in Sandy Hook,” said Robert DeLilli, superintendent of the Greater Johnstown School District. “From what I had heard, there could be an incident and threats were made. The seriousness of that rumor elevated concern,” he said.

Police concluded a criminal investigation Thursday night. DeLilli said he expects no criminal charges to be directed at the student and said the school took care of the matter internally with the student. He would not be more specific.

“I do not think there will be an arrest. Ninety percent of this was rumor that was stirred up through the social media,” he said.

As a precaution, Johnstown police were stationed at the high school Friday, basically to reassure parents concerned about the safety of their children, said Johnstown Chief of Police Mark Gifford.

“A police presence is occurring in schools throughout the state as precautionary measures,” he said. “This presence is to ensure the safety of our children and teaching staff and to bring a level of assurance to our community.”

Broadalbin-Perth also stationed a police officer at the high school Friday as a precautionary measure. Earlier in the week, the district had to deal with a rumor the high school would be subject to a bomb threat Friday.

Broadalbin-Perth Superintendent Stephen Tomlinson said the threat proved to be without merit, but the district brought in village of Broadalbin police officers to reassure the community.

Tomlinson said he was notified Tuesday by a parent that her child heard a rumor of a bomb threat taking place Friday at the high school. “It was not a direct threat,” he said.

District officials on Wednesday interviewed more than 75 students to track down the rumor and found it to not be credible. Feeding the frenzy was the social media, he said. He said the school had to gain control of the message flowing home to parents.

 

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